Immigration detainees revolt in West Texas jail —again

Details are still sketchy of an inmate uprising at a privately-operated federal detention facility in West Texas Jan. 31. Reports in the US and Mexican press suggest the revolt, involving hundreds prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos erupted after complaints of poor medical treatment went unheeded. Initial accounts report the uprising spanned two days, with inmates setting fires and possibly even seizing guards’ radio communication equipment. An unidentified Reeves County official earlier told El Diario de El Paso the situation was “dangerous” inside the facility managed by the Geo Group.

The uprising is now declared over, and as many as 700 former Pecos prisoners are reportedly confined at another detention center in Sierra Blanca, Texas, because sleeping areas were destroyed during the Jan. 31 rebellion. Many of the inmates at the Pecos prison were held on immigration law violations.

This was the second time inmates have staged violent protests at the prison in a period of less than two months. Although a complete assessment of injuries and property damages was not officially disclosed, at least three inmates could have been injured and hospitalized in the latest incident.

Managed by the Florida-based Geo Group, the Pecos facility is among many immigrant detention centers in the United States currently run by private companies. The jail has a capacity of 2,400 inmates, according to information posted on Geo Group’s web site. Formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Geo Group calls itself a “world leader” in the privatized management of correctional institutions. According to the company’s web site, “The North American market is growing rapidly, and we are focused on expanding Federal procurement opportunities.” Geo Group reported raking in $1.024 billion in revenues during 2007, with income totaling nearly $42 million. Besides the United States, the company manages prisons in several nations, including the United Kingdom, where it also provides immigrant detention services.

From Frontera NorteSur, Feb. 2

See our last post on the politics of immigration.