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WASHINGTON – According to media reports, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has canceled its contract with the Management and Training Corporation for the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville City, Texas. This cancellation comes after a major uprising on February 20th in which almost 2,000 people incarcerated at Willacy took control of the prison, apparently in protest of inadequate medical services.
“The Bureau of Prisons’ decision to shut down the Willacy private prison is a welcome but long overdue move,” said Carl Takei, an attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project. “We hope the Bureau will sustain this momentum by ending the use of private prisons entirely. Additionally, Congress must pass sentencing reform legislation and take steps to address our country’s mass incarceration epidemic.”
Nicknamed “Ritmo,” the Gitmo of Raymondville by local advocates, the Willacy prison was first built in 2006 as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility. After numerous complaints of abuse, ICE cancelled its contract with Willacy in 2011, but the Bureau of Prisons quickly converted Willacy into a “Criminal Alien Requirement” prison – one of thirteen such private prisons around the country.
The American Civil Liberties Union profiled this network of private prisons in its June 2014 report, “Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System.” The report found that people incarcerated in these private prisons were subjected to shocking mistreatment and abusive conditions, with inadequate oversight by the Bureau of Prisons. Following the recent uprising, the ACLU called for an independent investigation into the causes and circumstances of the protest.