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Texas Prison Riot Points to Privatization Problems

The town of Raymondville, Tex., got a shock over the weekend as the local Willacy County Correctional Center exploded into an uprising by prisoners upset over conditions and poor medical services at the facility. The inmates set fire to several kevlar domes or tents that serve as housing for the 2,800 prisoners at the facility, rendering the prison “uninhabitable.” The federal Bureau of Prisons and FBI as well as Texas Rangers and highway patrol were called in to evacuate the inmates to other facilities and negotiate with those who refused to move. Raymondville’s residents were advised to stay indoors during the stand-off, and a local school was put on “soft lockdown.” The Correctional Center, which mostly holds undocumented immigrants, is run by the private Management & Training Corp.

According to a report last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the large kevlar tents that make up the facility are “not only foul, cramped and depressing, but also overcrowded.” According to the report, prisoners at the facility said their health complaints were ignored, or met with corner-cutting treatment. Carl Takei, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told the local Valley Morning Star the courts have determined that the denial of appropriate medical care amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. “Government institutions like the Bureau of Prisons can’t evade their responsibility to provide inmates with proper medical care just by handing control of a prison to a private contractor like MTC,” he said.

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