Sunday, March 01, 2015

Willacy County facing economic devastation after riot at entrepreneurial private prison leaves unit 'uninhabitable'

Riots in Willacy County at a private prison housing federal immigration prisoners last week has been called "predictable" and has left the facility "uninhabitable." Texas Prison Bidness reminded us that "An ACLU report [last year] detailed squalid conditions, rampant abuse, and little to no medical care at the facility."

The detention center is run by the Management and Training Corporation, which operates ten other facilities around the state, employed 373 workers at the site, about half of whom live in the Raymondville and Willacy County areas while the rest live across the Rio Grande Valley." Those folks are now looking for work. According to the McAllen Monitor, "The prison pays [Willacy County] for every inmate it holds, pumping more than $2.7 million into county coffers last year." In addition, "In Raymondville, City Manager Eleazar Garcia said the prison’s closure could mean the loss of about $50,000 a month in water sales in the city whose annual budget projected about $3.6 million in water revenue." Observed the SA Express News:
The Willacy County economy is deeply dependent on the prison industry, floating tens of millions of dollars in bonds through a “Public Facilities Corp.” to build the Correctional Center. The county also has a 500-bed detention center operated by MTC under a U.S. Marshals contract, and a 1,000-bed state jail, operated by Corrections Corp. of America.

Each of the more than 2,800 prisoners in the Willacy correctional facility puts $2.50 per day in county coffers, adding up to about a quarter of its yearly budget of $8.1 million. It’s unclear who will be ultimately responsible for repairs to the building or how soon prisoners will return, if at all, leading some officials to worry the county could soon be faced with a budget shortfall.
Further, "The county owes about $63 million on the prison that opened in 2006," according to the county auditor, but the commissioners court claims "bond holders would assume any risk." That's a bit of fanciful thinking of which I'm sure the good folks in McLennan County could dissuade them, if anyone has ears to listen. Or, maybe they'll listen to S&P, which just downgraded the county's bond rating because of episode.

As an aside, there may be other jurisdictions salivating to house these prisoners and take advantage of MTC's woes, but be forewarned. The feds (ICE) have already begun assenting to bail in immigration cases for the first time in recent memory, perhaps in part in response to bed shortages in the system from the Willacy riot but more probably in reaction to a recent federal judge's ruling, still under review by the agency, ordering ICE to "stop denying bond to Central American families solely to deter more immigration." So the feds may yet figure out how how to absorb this group without doling out new contracts to other vendors.


Anonymous said...

The people in the Valley were poor before the prisons came. The people were poor while the prisons were there. The people in the Valley will be poor after the prisons are gone. The local governments are always in bed with thieves in the Valley.

People in the Valley while poor, are not dumb. They will remember the names of the politicians who became rich off the private prison industry. People like Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) and Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Larado). These politicians families have become very wealthy from the private prison industry. Oliveira's law firm made money off the private prison industry, while Judith Zaffirini's husband is a consultant for the private prison industry.

Zaffirini last session instead of recusing herself from the Senate Finance vote on the closure of Dawson CCA and Mineral Wells CCA, was only one of three Senators who voted against the measure. The closure saved taxpayers over a $1 billion for leased beds that weren't needed over the next ten years.

Now the poor people in Willacy County are left on the hook for their millions of dollars in water / sewage expansion for the private prison industry. Their bond rating has been downgraded.

The poor in the Valley have been sold out again by their politicians and another group of theives leaving town. While Zaffirini might be safe again from a private prison scandal, Representative Rene Oliveira's job will be in trouble next election, along with a few county commissioners in Willacy County. When these guys make a deal with the devil, one has to wonder what the price of a soul is now going for these days.

Anonymous said...

A private prison housing federal immigration prisoners?

Why is the county on the hook?
Sounds like City Manager has unclean hands.

This is not the American way to keep people locked up (tyranny).

Housing federal immigrants? They must be illegal or criminals. Either way they are supposed to be deported out of the country.

"In the first place, We should insist that if the immigrant Who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Words of: Theodore Roosevelt

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