Sunday, February 01, 2009

2,080 Inmates Riot At Privately-Run Reeves County Detention Center In Pecos, Texas; Facility Trashed, Geo Group Inc. Suppressing Information

Update February 2nd 4:13 A.M: More updated information posted below in green.

Here's another good reason why we don't allow private prisons in Alaska. As many as 2,080 inmates from two of the Reeves County Detention Center's three buildings in Pecos, Texas began fighting in the prison yard about 4:30 p.m. CST on Saturday January 31st, 2009, according to county Sheriff's Office Dispatcher Anna Granado. It is the second disturbance at the prison facility in the last two months. Media stories from CNN, the Houston Chronicle, the Odessa American, the Associated Press, and NewsWest 9. I'm using CNN's numbers because they're most recent; earlier reports showed only about 1,000 inmates involved.

Authorities from several law enforcement agencies, some from as far away as Terrell County east of Dallas, responded to quell the violence. However, officials had not brought the unrest completely under control as of 1 a.m. Sunday. So far, three inmates have been officially reported hospitalized, including one with a severed finger. But the UrbanPsyche blog reports many other inmates have also been injured. The disparity in reporting would ordinarily be understandable, except the facility is run by a private contractor, Geo Group Inc. They may have a vested corporate interest in suppressing the flow of information; perhaps they're more interested in protecting their stock price.

Update February 2nd: CNN now reports that the disturbance was ended around 4 P.M. on Sunday February 1st. One prison building was heavily damaged, and about 700 inmates will be spending the night in tents. As a precaution, sheriff's deputies and officers from several other agencies remained at the facility Sunday night to augment prison personnel. Beginning Monday, some inmates will be transferred elsewhere until repairs to the damaged building are finished.

Officials claim they do not know what prompted the riots. However, according to the UrbanPsyche blog, which has inside sources, one inmate died because of a lack of timely medical care, and several inmates have died during the past several months due to health care issues. This has now been confirmed in a story by KDBC Channel 4 in El Paso. The lack of medical attention at several privately managed federal correctional facilities has come under considerable scrutiny lately. Here's 13 minutes of raw video from NewsWest 9 embedded below:

Previously, on December 12th, 2008, inmates took two workers hostage and set fire to the recreation area at the center in Pecos, located about 430 miles west of Dallas. The inmates, who had made several demands, surrendered later that night.

Ironically, during the week of January 14th, Reeves County Commissioners, fearing a recurrence of the earlier disturbance, approved spending $70,000 dollars on new fencing. The project would enclose the walkways from the housing unit to the recreation yard. The purpose would be to keep inmates moving from one location to the other and keep them from wandering off. But there was no time to implement the decision before the current outbreak.

The prison is a 2,400-bed, low-security facility, operated by Geo Group Inc. It houses federal prisoners as well as inmates from other states. Many of the inmates are illegal immigrants awaiting deportation back to their home countries. Geo Group Inc. operates 53 facilities in the United States, including one at Guantanamo. Geo Group's corporate history can be found HERE; they started off as a subsidiary of Wackenhut two decades ago, and their stock is publicly traded under the label "GEO".

This caps a bad week for the company. A Geo Group corrections officer was arrested in Indiana for allegedly helping a prisoner escape. Maurice Melton has been suspended without pay from his job at the New Castle Correctional Facility after his arrest on a felony charge of aiding an escape. He was being held in the Henry County Jail. Melton is accused of helping inmate Jeffery Kinartail, McCordsville, leave the dorm Thursday night (Jan 29) and driving him to Indianapolis. Kinartail was serving a sentence for cocaine dealing. Prison officials say Melton expected to be paid for helping in the escape.

These are some good reasons why we don't allow private prisons in Alaska, and why Anchorage voters previously rejected a private prison proposal for South Anchorage back during the '90s. There have been no such outbreaks of mass violence in Alaska's prisons in recent memory. However, to reduce overcrowding, excess Alaska prisoners are housed at the Red Rock institution in Eloy, AZ. This is a privately-run facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). And sure enough, on January 8th, two convicted murderers were seriously injured in a brawl involving 60 of the 878 Alaska prisoners housed at the facility. Apparently, private contractors do not teach their COs how to prevent fights from becoming full-scale brawls.


  1. Of course they're going to suppress as much information as possible. They have a vested interest in doing so, especially considering that this is the second revolt in about a month's time. Makes you wonder what's really going on. Why would so many inmates at a low security correctional center react so violently?

  2. Your own report tends to answer your question. If inmates cannot get timely health care because officials think they're "shamming", they will reach their breaking point somewhere along the line.

    I have since noticed (and updated my post accordingly) that Reeves County Commissioners anticipated this outbreak and approved $70,000 for more fencing during the week of January 14th. This shows the difference in accountability. Public officials still tend to hold themselves accountable to the public, even nominally. In contrast, Geo Group only holds themselves accountable to its stockholders.

    Nothing against the private sector, mind you, but this is precisely why the core functions of public safety cannot be entrusted to the private sector.

  3. A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)


    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
    We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

    Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

    Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

    John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

    There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

    Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

    The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
    These new slave plantations are not the answer!

    For more information please visit: or email:
    To sign the petition please visit:


    William Thomas
    National Community Outreach Facilitator
    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
    P.O. Box 156423
    San Francisco, California 94115

  4. the single reason i do not support private prisons is because they don't offer any type of rehabilitation for those incarcerated, they want them to come back over and over again because it's good for bussines when your in the prison industry.

  5. Tout d'abord j'aimerais dire que les combats on commencé à cause qu'il y a beaucoup trop de prisonnier qui sont mort à cause d'un manque de soin médical je veux bien croire qu'il son des criminel mais pas nécessairement criminel au censé tué quel qu'un la plus part des détenus qui son la c'est à cause de la drogue fraude.... et je peux vous dire que les agents qui travaillent la bas non seulement son arrogant mais surtout impolie. La premier fois que je suis allé voir mon frère la bas les agents me regarde comme si j'étais un morceau de viande.... Les agents de sécurité dans cette prison son nulle.... Les mexicains si ils ont fait une émeute ce n’est pas pour rien ils veulent juste exprimer leurs droits et surtout dire que TOUT LE MONDE A LE DROIT D'ÊTRE SOIGNÉ PEUT IMPORTE NOS ERREURS. En plus d’être canadienne je ne comprends pas comment sa se fait que le Canada ne ramène pas leurs Canadiens ici…. Une loi qui nous à été imposer en 2007 par LES CONSERVATEUR (HARPER TU NOUS FAIS HONTE) qui dit tout canadien qui commet un acte criminel à l’extérieure du pays dois purger sa sentence dans le pays x ou il la commit. Je trouver cela pathétique et surtout décevant de la part du gouvernement canadien. Quand j’ai reçu l’appel de mon frère pour m’informer de ce qu’il se passer je n’en revenais pas. J’ai appelé à la prison et au consulat canadien pour avoir des informations car un membre de ma famille se trouve la et il et en danger…. À LA PRION IL M’ON RACROCHER LA LIGNE AU NEZ ET AU CONSULAT COMME DE FAIT IL ÉTÉ MÊME PAS AU COURANT DE SA QUAND MOI JE LES APPLER DIMANCHE.