Willacy County Correctional Center

Mar 2, 2017
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Business Insider

A notoriously abusive detention center nicknamed 'Ritmo' may be re-opening under Trump

One of America's most notorious detention centers may be opening its doors again under President Donald Trump.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is considering reactivating the vacant Willacy County Correctional Facility in Raymondville, Texas, according to Texas Monthly, prompting concerns about the center's history of abuse, neglect, and other illegal activity.

The news comes as ICE rapidly moves to expand its detention capacity along the Mexican border, under instruction from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

Built in 2006 with a maximum capacity of 3,000, the detention center was the largest in the country at the time —but it faced problems immediately.

Attorneys and immigration advocates revealed that undocumented immigrants were held up to 23 hours a day in the center's 10 windowless tents, and reported insufficient food, medical attention, clothing, and access to telephones, all within a year of the facility opening.

The problems continued in 2007, when in July officials discovered maggotsin the inmates' food supplies. Though officials called the incident a one-time occurrence, inmates complained the next month of mold, flooded toilets, and infestations of insects and rodents.

Inmates also claimed they were being given dirty underwear and towels for use, as well as shoes and socks with holes.  The American Bar Association reported some detainees "indicated that they had been instructed not to say anything negative to the delegation about the facility."

The facility earned the disparaging moniker "Ritmo" during this time, because it was "like Gitmo, but it's in Raymondville," said immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin, using the nickname for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. 

...

The facility was shuttered in 2015 after inmates revolted and set fire to three of its tents, leaving the center uninhabitable — a "welcome but long overdue move," the ACLU said at the time.

However, critics are now worried about its potential re-opening.

"To reopen this troubled private prison would be a giant step backwards," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based social justice group that opposes private prisons, in a statement. [node:read-more:link]

Feb 27, 2015
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Dallas Observer

South Texas Prison Riot Probably Happened Because Texas' Immigrant Prisons Are Awful

"Why did a few thousand immigrants imprisoned in South Texas riot last week against the nice private prison corporation that was housing them? Management and Training Corp.'s (MTC) version of events is that its inmates 'refused to participate in regular work duties or attend breakfast early Friday morning,' which certainly seems like an unreasonable thing for an inmate to do.

The inmates then somehow broke out of their housing units, forcing the company to bring in multiple government agencies to lock the place down and also forcing a partial lock-down of the local school district in Willacy County.

MTC had been running its prison under a contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, housing illegal immigrants in pre-detention, but in 2011 things went haywire. In a PBS report, a former health worker at the prison testified to 'women harassed for sexual favors, guards taking detainees and beating them, running them down like they were animals,' among other abuses. That year, ICE canceled its contract with the corporation, leaving MTC's 3,174 beds severely underused.

That is, they were underused briefly. Not long after, MTC and Willacy County arranged a contract with the Bureau of Prisons for a facility that would be an upgrade, of sorts: it would become a Criminal Alien Requirement prison, or CAR prison, for immigrants caught crossing the border illegally or convicted of felonies. There are 13 such prisons in the United States, five in Texas. 'We know them to be the worst of the worst," says Cristina Parker, who covers immigration for the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. "They don't meet the federal standards the way that even very bad federal prisons do.'" [node:read-more:link]

Seven things to know about uprising at Texas private prison for immigrants

2009 "Tent City" Protest This weekend, a private prison incarcerating immigrant prisoners in Willacy County, Texas erupted into a major uprising.  While most of the media over the weekend has focused narrowly on the uprising itself (with some notable exceptions, including this excellent article from Fusion), incarcerated immigrants and advocates have for years been warning that these prisons are tinderboxes of horrendous conditions waiting to explode (and at times have already done so).  Here are some things about the Willacy County Correctional Center and the context of incarcerating immigrants in substandard private prisons that has made these facilities so very dangerous.  
 
1) The Willacy facility was so plagued with abuse and mismanagement that ICE ended its contract.  The Willacy County Correctional Center was formerly an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracted detention center where sexual and physical abuse and medical neglect were so rampant that ICE ended its contract in 2011.  Immigration advocates regularly protested the facility and a Maria Hinojosa-reported exposé for Frontline was one of the many pieces denoting the appalling conditions at Willacy.  
 
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