Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pecos prison dreams up in smoke

There was a time not long ago when prisons in Texas were fallaciously promoted as engines for rural economic development, but that has turned out to be a failed experiment.

Tom Barry at Border Lines has a couple of terrific posts implicating this phenomenon in reaction to the second riot in as many months protesting inadequate medical care at a private prison in Pecos, TX, housing immigrant detainees. Barry explains how the prison became more or less the only employer left in the county:

In the early 1990s the town fathers envisioned another economic boom for Pecos. This time, though, not development dependent on nonrenewable resources -- water, oil, earth of the arid plains -- but on a resource that seemed to be ever rising in modern America. They dreamed of making Pecos a destination for prisoners.

They could offer a remote location, a county willing to issue nearly $100 million in revenue bonds for prison construction, and a downtrodden, , desperate, despairing workforce left behind by previous booms. All this would make Pecos "competitive," as county officials say, in a national market that seemed bust-proof.

Not only was the system of crime and punishment in America producing tens of thousands of more prisoners every year. The number of detained and imprisoned immigrants was also rising exponentially. The year that the first of the three Reeves County prisons opened Congress was passing legislation that would start a new era of criminalizing immigrants. With nearly a million illegal immigrants streaming into the country each year, the demand for prisons to hold these immigrants until deportation seemed boundless.

Initially called the Law Enforcement Center with capacity of some 900 "criminal aliens," Reeves County has expanded the prison to three units with a total capacity of more than 3,700. The contracts with the Bureau of Prisons and GEO Group and the revenue bonds note that this may be just the beginning of the dream of making Reeves County the nation's immigrant prison capital. Someday, the prison may expand to 7,000 prison beds if all goes well.

Although owned by Reeves County, the detention center is managed and operated by GEO Group, the world's second largest prison corporation.

Now the dreams of county officials and many county residents are going up in smoke.

Literally, up in smoke:
As immigrant prisoners repeatedly riot at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, there is palpable concern in this West Texas town not about the condition of the inmates, who have set fire to the prison to protest lack of medical attention, but about the future of "economic development."

As smoke rose over the town, county residents and officials expressed anger that the imprisoned immigrants were endangering their livelihoods and county financial stability. More than three-hundred county residents are employed at the prison, and the county desperately needs a high inmate county to get the per diems ("man-days") from the federal government to pay down its revenue bonds.
Bottom line, the whole concept of prisons as economic development was a flawed idea that never panned out the way it was hyped. Remote locations make rural prisons difficult to monitor and staff, and Texas has been forced to close wings at two rural units while TYC is moving to eliminate its most remote facilities. As it turns out, prisons produce a relatively small economic multiplier effect (see this report from the Sentencing Project) while other investments - in education, healthcare, and transportation infrastructure, for example - give much more job-producing bang for the buck.

See more coverage of the riot in Pecos from Texas Prison Bidness.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

What rural facilities is TYC moving to eliminate? We have a family member that is being sent to TYC. That's why it jumped out at me when I read your statement toward the end of this prison article. They told us he would be kept close to home. Were we given incorrect information? Where he is being sent is only a 3 hr drive. Much better than driving 8 or 10 hrs more to other areas in the state.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The units in Pyote and Vernon are likely to get the axe, and the Sheffield boot camp was closed last year. Another, privately run unit in Coke County was closed in late 2007.

Anonymous said...

I still beg to differ as to who decides what remote is. A 5 hour drive to Victory Field is remote yes, but a 2 1/3 hour drive from Lubbock or Amarillo is not. The push to close what they call remote is taking kids far away from home is some instances. The student's rights would be violated by their parents not being able to visit as opposed to sitting in a visitation room full of Harris county parents visiting their child.

Anonymous said...

Grits, exactly what type of offenses are those incarcerated at the facility being held for? In other news accounts they are reffered to as criminal illegal immigrants. It implies that they have been convicted of a crime other than being in this country illegally.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 12:23: To my knowledge they're just talking about plain old misdemeanor "illegal entry" charges, not immigrants who've committed other crimes. Those folks tend to serve time in regular state prison and are then deported.

Anonymous said...

Grits, no one mentioned to us that any facility is going to be axed. Our family member is going to Pyote, that causes me great concern. It is only a 3 hour drive from El Paso. If they send him to any other area, it would mean an 8 to 10 hour drive or perhaps more. How does that relate to keeping them close to home? We do a 3 hr drive weekly as it is not an overnight trip. It makes absolutely no sense to us. Where can we turn for answers and what can we do to keep this from happening? Please understand, it is a concern for us.

Anonymous said...

TYC management caused most of the remote trips for families. Rather than send youth from West Texas to Pyote, TYC sent youth from South Texas and East Texas to Pyote, insuring families could not see the terror and abuse there. Local confinement was possible, but management knew their polices of abuse would be discovered if families were close enough to visit. That policy cost TYC its once respect and now will close old faitful Pyote. Managers managers that sexually abused youth at Pyote thought they were safe, and were for awhile until it all exploded in their faces. Close it as soon an possible, and close the private prisons also. They are there for the money, while TYC chose abuse.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 12:40 - In the budget passed in the 80th Legislature, the facilities in Pyote and Vernon were only budgeted for one year in the current biennium - the Lege envisioned them closing last September. But TYC has kept them open using unspent funds from staffing vacancies at other facilities. For those units to stay open would require an increase from TYC's current baseline funding, which in the current budget climate seems (to me, at least) unlikely to happen.

As for the issue of keeping kids closer to home, when it's been discussed that concept also included shifting to smaller, Missouri-style facilities, but that has been a complete nonstarter. Instead, the Lege seems to be primed (though they'll be debating it in the Sunset bill and elsewhere this session) to stick with large facilities and not do any serious "regionalization" or shift to a "Missouri model."

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

I agree if they're going to shut down Pyote, according to the "regionalization" concept they should open a Missouri-model style faciliy in El Paso (or Midland), but I've never heard such a thing seriously discussed

Anonymous said...

12:23 here - (Shaking my head now)What are we doing? Can we not find enough actual criminals to incarcerate?

To the people of Pecos, with all due respect, you cannot make a deal with the devil and expect not to pay.

Geo group from what I have read, in general, does not have any incentive to seeing that safety or health standards are maintained at any of their facilities. It is a for-profit making business where the motivation to cut corners is paramount to the lives of those that live within its framework.

Sad.

Anonymous said...

Less than half of the inmates at Pecos are here for illegal entry only. Most have extensive criminal history/ charges. These include murder, assaults, rapes, narcotics, burgaries, etc.

The issue there is the owner (county) and the managers (GEO) refuse to increase wages to meet the local markets. This has caused many to move on to higher paying jobs, though usually at longer hours (oil).

In addition, the lack of housing/ aprtments affected people interested in moving here. This has slowly improved, with over 15 new houses being built within the last 4 months and a new apartment complex last yr.

No, I do not work for the county, GEO or any other employer in Pecos.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for the firsthand update, 2:20.

Anonymous said...

220....perhaps true; but the primary reason for the rioting is refusal by management to provide decent medical care for these locked up folks. I don't work for these folks but I live here and know people that work there and the place is a disaster, waiting to happen. Perhaps they looked to TYC-Pyote as a guide.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

Do you know approximately how long those unspent funds from understaffing can keep the Peyote and Vernon facilities open?

I work at VFCA where 27 employees were recently laid off. IMO, if the plan is to close our facility soon, then those 27 people just landed first priority at any available jobs in the surrounding area and/or within the agency. This more than sucks for the rest of us who will be hard at work until our doomsday arrives.

Why do you suppose they won't let us know one way or the other what our fate is if they already know the facts? I don't think fear of a mass exodus is a valid reason. The mass exodus occurred in 2007 and 2008 after the infamous can of pedofile worms opened. Most of us who have chosen to stay with VFCA, plan to stay until the end, but it would be nice to know if there is, in fact, going to be an end and when it will be. The 2 plus years of waiting has been a long and stressful journey.

Since I survived the first RIF, I thought we would probably last until the end of August, but after hearing the information you stated about how we are being funded, I am beginning to think it could be the end of this month, if not sooner.

If you don't mind me asking, what is your best guess as to how long we may last? I value your knowledge and opinions very much.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's hard to guess, 6:41, since everything's so much in flux. I really don't have any knowledge beyond what I wrote at 12:56.

And I don't mean to overstate things or sound too negative. There's always the chance they'll re-fund those units this session. Cherie Townsend appears to be doing what she can to keep them open long enough to give the Lege a chance to change their minds. The Sunset legislation is the vehicle where they'll probably make that decision, and the budget, of course.

LBB says TYC's population will increase in the next few years, which has always seemed (to me, at least) to contradict the plan to close more units without an investment in some kind of Missouri-model alternative, but logic hasn't always dictated what's happened with this agency over the last couple of years.

Sorry I don't have more info.

Anonymous said...

Grits, thanks for sharing what you know. Our future is riding with the lege, so I will just be patient and see how it goes.

The recent recommendation to reinstate 19 and 20 year olds back into TYC could throw a rod into the current plans for housing TYC's population. They may need us after all. I will be there until the end, or a new start occurs...whichever happens first.

Many thanks for all you do to keep us informed.

Anonymous said...

Lovely people in Pecos County - seeing economic benefits in concentration camps.

Anonymous said...

Victory Field isn't closing. They just posted a Chemical dependency program Director position for your new CD program.

diogenes said...

Regarding the GEO group in Pecos, I know several of their employees over the past few years have come to WTSS because the working conditions at WTSS were better. I'll let people take that as they will.

I also know from experience trying to get in as a religious volunteer that the GEO chaplain (at the time, over 3 years ago) dragged his feet and put as many obstacles in the way as possible because he didn't want to do anything. We were actually told this by the person training our group of volunteers because the chaplain (who was supposed to do the training) was conveniently unavailable and had done so several times before. I don't know if that situation improved over the past few years, but it didn't help me overcome any of the negative information I've heard in academic/reasearch circles about GEO group mismanaging contract prisons.

Regarding regionalization and WTSS, scuttlebutt is that there is a contract facility outside of Lubbock that is available to (partially) replace WTSS. Another may exist in El Paso to help things in that direction. This is all scuttlebutt, so it may be worth less than the electrons on the monitor, but that's about all we have for info out here a lot of times.

Anonymous said...

There was a small podunk town in Texas that owes the majority of its economic growth to the slave labor of the states throw away children. Those times have gone, or maybe not, the little town piss-ant town of gatesville in coryell county is still doing well in the concentration camp business. Only now its abusing children through abusing their mothers. A real stand up self righteous community, of ignorant hicks, doing their job to protect the white folks from the evil sinners from the city.
By turning over the property of the state sponsored boys slave labor school to the criminal Texas Department of Injustice was a great cover up if any one went searching for all those state boys who allegedly escaped but were never caught. Yea right, not those prideful child abusing losers they called security. Florida youth corrections could have learned from our state sponsored child abuse agency. Google white house boys.

I’m too smart to go into the corrections business and too dumb to go into the drug business so that leaves me as a tax payer who contributes to this madness.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

To the poster whose family member is going to tyc, my deepest sympathies to you. There is a 92% chance the family member will never be released from the states supervision. There is a 99.9999% chance, what we call a 6 sigma, tyc’ culture will physically, mentally, verbally and sexually abuse this child and the child will be more addicted to drugs than ever before. There are no programs that will help the child and each and every staff member will potentially lie to you about everything. The child will leave tyc hundreds times worst off prior to going in.

My recommendation is for the child to fly under the radar as best they can, do whatever “those people” ask him/her to do to get the hell out of there, and once the child is out get them some REAL help. Do your homework.

Again my deepest sympathies to you, your family, and the child, whatever the crime, I’m confident the child does not deserve to be confined in the states 120 year old institution of child abuse, in the name of helping the child.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what is going on now? How they are being housed? Has anyone been let in other than prison officials to check on their welfare?

I haven't been able to find any recent news accounts.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grits, I did not mean to cause any problems asking a simple question. It was a concern to me and my family and I felt I needed to ask it. It was off the topic but mentioned in your article.

To Sheldon, I believe you are wrong. I have a co-worker whose son ended up in TYC for 4 years. The kid, now a man, was treated in a very dignified and respectful manner. He owns his business and doing very well. He has talked to us about TYC and had nothing negative to say. Yes, he may be one of the few, but he's all we have to rely on. We are very appreciative of his advice. He did tell my son that getting out and changing his life would be entirely up to him. Hope & prayer is all we have left and he has our support. Thank you for your advice as well Sheldon.

Anonymous said...

Its really bad inside. When the full truth comes out, it it does, there will be major abuses like at TYC. Management will cover up most of the abuses but you must push hard for the real truth to come out. The abuse just goes on and on at Pecos and WT.

Anonymous said...

6:54
This is a subject aria where its excites me to no end to hear about a tyc survivor success story. Although, when the minimum length of stay is 9 to 12 months, a kid staying in for 4 years, well I wish you were right when you said I was wrong. Almost all of the former inmates who have contacted me that are under 30 years of age have a very difficult time talking about their experience other than its wasn’t so bad. It’s the conditioning. For example, those demonic emps will say to a kid don’t tell or it will happen to you as they rape your cell mate. Once a former inmate opens up to someone who acknowledges the truth about the place and is not afraid to talk about it, well its therapeutic. I would like to hear from your coworkers son, it would be nice to hear something positive from a recent former inmate of tyc. Sadly many are simply unwilling to speak of the atrocities they experienced.

I’ll be the first to admit tyc is different today from my day. Today the tyc emps are more cowardly and play mind games and hid in the shadows like anonymous trolls. In my day the dorm men held control on a dorm with 40 boys and had no problem openly beating a child for whatever perceived infractions they felt necessary. Bruises heal, the punkish mind games that tyc emps play on each other and the children is so cowardly its pathetic. The crap from the emps pathetic lives starts from the top like a cherry blossom and roles down to the bottom of the food chain, the children, as the culture transforms it to a nasty fart blossom. IMO, the kids were better off in a correction environment than this joke of a pretence of helping a kid we have in today’s tyc. The tyc don’t even know what its role is, its future, or any confidence in its leadership food chain.

There have always been the few staff who care. It’s one of my favorite question to ask a former inmate, do you remember any staff who gave you the impression they cared about you? Some of the time I get a name, in some cases 2 names, but sadly the answer is a quick response of HELL NO. At the suggestion of a poster on this blog a while back I have been working with other state boys to compile a list of the names of tyc abusers. Recently, I have also compiled a very short list of staff who care. Soon this list will be public knowledge with their crimes against children for all to see. Some as recent as today’s times while others go back 40 years. These people need to be exposed, even if their dead, their names need to be desecrated like the lives of the children whom they desecrated. Unfortunately, as recent tyc history shows, the emps on the bad list who are still at tyc will be promoted and those on the good list will be fired, so perhaps I shouldn’t publish the good list, cause we need those folks to keep doing what they’re doing under the tyc radar.

May your family member and the son of your coworker have a long successful and productive life, raise successful children thereby breaking the cycle of bad parenting and the lack of being civilized. B’’H

Sheldon tyc#47333 II C/S
oldschool@ironguardiansnt.com

Anonymous said...

6:54
One more thing, someone brought up a book a few weeks ago by the title “raped by the state” that was written by what some anonymous tyc trolls would call a disgrunt tyc emp. His book scratches the surface on the atrocities performed and covered up by those demonic souls masquerading as Christian do-gooders. It should be required reading for any parent whose allowed their child to get into the circumstances of being sent to our state sponsored child molestation agency, tyc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for standing up 220. I became enraged as I read 'raped by the state'. I had heard before but the book brought out the real truth about TYC. The author may be unaware but his exposure of the terror in TYC helped thousands of youth and brought attention that hopefully will correct so much abuse.Some have attempted to discredit the book, but perhaps they have much to hide. Why otherwise be upset about the disclosures?

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Sheldon, please think long and hard about what you say to these parents. This is not an intellectual exercise in the pros and cons of the juvenile justice system.

I completely understand your pain at having been victimized by the system. But you have no idea what a parent goes through when their kids are out of control.

It's hard to fully describe the sleepless nights, waiting for that phone call that tells you that your child is either in jail or dead.

The worry and fear and guilt is almost too much to bear at times. I don't think that most parents relinquish control to the state without trying everything in their power to help their children in some other way.

I am sorry that things were so bad for you. And I am sorry for what you are going through now because of it. And I am so glad that you are making your voice heard to try to change things. But in the context of this discussion I think you could use better discretion.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with many incarcerated juveniles and find that the majority of parents are too busy or unconcerned, to help their children with problems. Its just someone else problem. Can't the teachers teach them manners and responsibility. There are some, but not many, parents that really tried with their children and just could not help/control them. Just go look on the local streets and see how many parents are watching out for their children.

Anonymous said...

My hats off to the writer of "Raped by The State". He helped bring out the terrible conditions in TYC, which forced the lege to make drastic changes to correct the nightmare of TYC justice.

Anonymous said...

7:04 I have worked with many of those that have worked with those incarcerated in the juvenile justice system and I find that most, not all, are small minded, illeducated, uninformed, judgemental folks with little, if any practical experience to afford parents, much less children in need. Save the blame game for yourself. That is obviously all you have to offer.

Anonymous said...

Pecos, TX is in Reeves County

Anonymous said...

727, you are the small minded here. You don't even have direct experience....you worked with those that worked with....etc, butt crap. You're the type that ruins programs because you think you understand, but you don't understand shi..., obvious from your laking post.

Anonymous said...

6:34 Good call,
7:04 and 7:27 Good points.
My Dad passed away in 1993 and most of his papers have been stored in my attic since then. My son moved back home at the end of last summer to finish his last year of college, a Bachelors Of Science in Electrical Engineering like his Dad. That's an example of what I was discussing above regarding breaking the cycle. We needed to clean out the attic for my sons accumulated stuff from 4 years of living at school and I found a journal that my Dad kept while I was a teenager. It took almost a month to read through. It was heart wrenching and difficult to read through the tears. When I spoke to my Uncle, who spent many nights on the phone with my Dad during that time, about the journal he told me that my initial trip to gatesville, after several attempts to place me in private facilities, was to save my life. I needed to be some where they could hold me, my Uncle said, so I went through the judicial process. When my Dad came to get me after a year, I was in lockup at that time, I only lasted 4 months in the free world when it was thought in my best interest to go back until I was closer to 18, another year on the g plan.

So far I have not experienced the heartache my parents felt and Gd willing I wont. My Uncle says my parents did not teach me to be civilized and as dificult as it was to accept I had to agree. The kids I see today in trouble appear as though they were raised my a pack of wolves. This is why I advocate fixing the kid on the back end and teach them to break the cycle. I suppose someone focused on the business of corrections would find that thinking as taking away there livelihood. I'm sure that's not a popular ideology in the geo group or tdc. I believe in our country there will always be parents not teaching there kids to be civilized, there will always be burnout teachers who get the kids who have been classified by the school as bad, therefore we will always have a nice flow of kids into the system thereby creating jobs no one else could afford to take, so there will always be abusive pathetic social retards to watch these so called bad kids.

Fix them on the back end and have them break the cycle, the generational curse, that has plagued their family, perhaps for generations, perhaps as far back as the passing of the 14th amendment. That's a good seaway for Bill Crosby's book. As my mother of blessed memory would say concerning the Fat Albert show, you see son even the maids children can learn how to act right if held to a higher expectation. I only wish she lived long enough to see a black man become president of these United States.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

8:37 shouldn't you be planning your next cover up or surfing porn on state time. Don't you have some poor child to abuse or some underling staff member to screw over. You make tyc the place it is today, assuming you actually work. 7:27 gave a pretty accurate profile of what it takes to get to a mid manager level and up in tyc.

Sorry Grits I just couldnt resist.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Its a shame that there are still many abusers in TYC. Many are mid level and take advantage of youth and employees. Its appears obvious that some posters are sexual abusers and know how to skirt the system.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon; you may think you have turned your life around, but based on your comments, you have a long, long way to go. You are not a role model for anything, let alone young people....are you going to tell them to follow you? Big help there. You are in need of serious mental help.

Anonymous said...

"727, you are the small minded here. You don't even have direct experience....you worked with those that worked with....etc, butt crap. You're the type that ruins programs because you think you understand, but you don't understand shi..., obvious from your laking post."

Here is what I understand: I am the parent of a child that was once in the juvenile justice system. I found little, if any, evidence-based, substanitive treatment programs available to him.

The only reason that he was spared a ride through TYC was because of my effort to afford him the treatment that he needed.

I have a masters degree, mister TYC. I work in a legal environment and I cannot tell you the people then and now who fresh out of college and with NO children, propose to tell me the sad stories of kids who wouldn't be in the state they are in if it wasn't for their parents.

Nice, blame the parents for all their kids misdeeds. Place blame for whatever on everyone except yourself or the child for that matter.

Well, that is convenient, because if it is not any of your fault then you have absolutely no ability in fixing any of it.

Anonymous said...

Well you may have a point 11:04. Each day is a learning experience. I have mentors, and teachers, and I work on myself every day. That’s what it takes to “Break Norms”. 09/21/2009 will be 32 years and every day is a struggle to fight the evil inclination that was feed so will in the care of the 120 year old state sponsored agency for child molestation, tyc. I don’t tell anyone to follow me, I tell them to set a frame of reference like the 10 commandments or the B Attitudes from the Christian New Testament, and to follow their heart. I think I would give you the same advise 11:04 as well as your partners in child abusing and cover ups.

Its customary in my world to bless our children on Friday nights as well as sing proverbs 31 to my wife. When I bless my children I bless them to be like themselves instead of the traditional blessing of being like Ephraim and Manasseh for my sons and Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah for my daughters. My psychological problem that has stemmed from childhood is I hate bullies, I think that’s what you see coming out here. That’s how I got sent to tyc, protecting people from bullies, like you people who abuse the throw away children of Texas and/or cover it up. Ive been told by several professionals that’s healthy, except to the cowardly bully.

Obviously tyc’s policy as well as human psyche dictates you abuser bullies hide in the shadows , but I’m going to ask anyway, what’s yor name boyyyy. Email me if you dare oldschool@ironguardiansnt.org and we can continue our discussion there.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Get a new life Sheldon and stop the crap.