After riot, thousands of prisoners to be moved from Texas prison

The riot made large portions of the Willacy County Correctional Center "uninhabitable", according to federal prison officials.

As many as 2,800 federal prisoners will be moved to other institutions after inmates seized control of part of a prison in South Texas, causing damage that made the facility "uninhabitable," an official said Saturday.

Ed Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said the inmates who had taken control are "now compliant" but that negotiations were ongoing Saturday in an effort for staff to "regain complete control" of Willacy County Correctional Center.

"The situation is not resolved, though we're moving toward a peaceful resolution," FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said Saturday evening.

It wasn't immediately clear what progress had been made through the negotiations, but Sheriff Larry Spence said there were no hostages involved in the standoff and only minor injuries reported. Spence said the inmates "have pipes they can use as weapons."

Management & Training Corp., the private contractor that operates the center for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said about 2,000 inmates became disruptive Friday because they're upset with medical services and refused to perform work duties.

MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said in a statement that prisons officials have begun moving the inmates and that the process would continue into next week.

Arnita said prison administrators met with inmates Friday to address their concerns but that the prisoners "breached" their housing units and reached the recreation yard. The Valley Morning Star reports fires were set inside three of the prison's 10 housing units.

Authorities say about 800 to 900 other inmates are not participating in the disturbance. The inmates being held at the facility, which is in far South Texas more than 200 miles south of San Antonio, are described as "low-level" offenders who are primarily immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

"Correctional officers used non-lethal force, tear gas, to attempt to control the unruly offenders," Arnita said in the statement.

No inmate breached two perimeter security fences, and there's no danger to the public, he said.

The large Kevlar tents that make up the facility were described in a 2014 report by the American Civil Liberties Union as not "only foul, cramped and depressing, but also overcrowded."

The report said that inmates reported that their medical concerns were often ignored by staff and that corners were often cut when it came to health care.

Brian McGiverin, a prisoners' rights attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said that he was not surprised inadequate medical care could ignite a riot. He said medical care is grossly underfunded in prisons, especially in ones run by private contractors.

"It's pretty abysmal with regard to modern standards how people should be treated, pretty much anywhere you go," he said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.