Well it didn’t work out so well the last time so here we go again.
The former Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville Texas was shut down in 2015 because of a prison riot, perhaps more accurately termed a prison insurrection or rebellion, that essentially destroyed the institution and trashed the facility beyond repair. The mostly short term detainees awaiting adjudication of their immigration cases, and others serving terms for mostly repeat illegal entry to the United States were relocated to other facilities. The private corporation that ran the facility was MTC, or Management Training Corporation; a corporation that has run private, so-called, correctional facilities across the country ever since the explosion of the private prison industry under George Bush the second.
Living conditions for the inmates was deplorable; profits came before everything else. Food was at or below hospital standards, which in the monopolistic health care we have now is extremely low, and medical care was erratic at best. The stench of backed up plumbing and sewage permeated the facilities, and at a fundamental and systemic level, the Kevlar tent design of the facility did not work. In other words, hot, humid and stuffy in the summer and cold and humid and miserable in the winter.
However, the kevlar tent structure was inexpensive to build, and perhaps as well, the corporation knew they would not be there that long. When the tax credits, abatements and sweetheart deals with the county ran out, the corporate bug-out could begin. Or maybe they were planning to stay for generations and were just hedging their bets by building on the cheap.
Nonetheless to quote the famous movie “The Poltergeist” “Their baaaack.” Yes MTC is renegotiating a deal with Willacy County that had been suing the corporation for all sorts of malfeasance, incompetence, and misdeed. Management Training Corporation is proposing to open approximately one-third of the original 3,000 bed facility. Some people in Willacy County are thrilled. Almost 400 employees lost their jobs with the prison closure in 2015. Tax revenues have plummeted in the county and an area perennially in economic doldrums has dived deeper into depression.
So in spite of all the accusations in the County’s lawsuit, all seems to be forgiven. Let the bell ring for round 2.
In looking at the larger picture, we see a resurgence after what seemed to be the beginning of the end of the private prison industrial complex. One of the few bright spots at the end of the Obama Administration’s reign, was the retreat of support for corporate private prisons. Federal prisoners were supposed to be removed from the industry. Now in what could become a stain on the new Trump Administration, authoritarian drug and other laws could be used to re-ignite the private prison industrial complex. The Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice-President Mike Pence could become problematical. Time will tell. As of this writing it is too soon to see.
If even free-market capitalist types are honest with themselves, there are certain endeavors, especially concerned with law enforcement and corrections, that should not be profit driven. Making activities or behavior crimes for the sake of profit for either groups, individuals or governments should be against the law. The issue here rests on a basic legal foundation: That of moral hazard…If it is profitable and to the benefit of an entity to imprison, enslave, or to strip the inherent rights from an individual for financial or other gain, then it more than likely, if not certain that it will happen. And it has happened many times in the past, and will happen in the future as well. No need to stray far a field. The history of peonage in Willacy county has been proven in Federal Court. The Raymondville Peonage Case of 1927, demonstrates the con-flux of state and private commercial interest combining to enslave agriculture workers.
The over riding and supremely simple solution I propose is to return all profits from law enforcement activities back to the people. Problem solved. No more moral hazard.
Agricultural worker have been enslaved and placed into bondage throughout all history and in all cultures. While putative correctional bondage has been used for corporate profit in the past and today as well, there is a modern day twist on a time honored scheme. Today, in many cases it is the taxpayers alone that bear the burden of the oppression. And that can be quite gainful to the conglomerate private prison industrial complex.
Sources and further info:
Detention Center Historical in Spanish