ACLU Urges Investigation Into Conditions At Texas Prison
Second Riot In Two Months At Bureau Of Prisons Facility Demands Inquiry
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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas today strongly urged the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the conditions at a federal prison in West Texas after a riot broke out there over the weekend.
According to news reports, prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in Pecos, Texas, a Bureau of Prisons facility operated by the private prison company Geo Group, Inc., began to riot Saturday night to protest poor medical care. The Reeves County Sheriff’s Office said at least three prisoners were hospitalized – one with a severed finger – and news reports indicate that two buildings that house over 2,100 prisoners sustained severe damage.
The riot was the second in as many months at RCDC. A riot broke out at the facility on December 13 as prisoners demanded adequate medical care and food after the death of a fellow prisoner in detention.
“It is imperative that the OIG investigate the prisoners’ complaints of inadequate medical care and other poor conditions at RCDC to protect against any future problems at the facility and to restore public confidence,” the ACLU says in a letter sent today to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and signed by Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, and Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “Such an investigation should focus on both the immediate causes of the disturbances as well as the root causes, which may involve poor conditions ranging from inadequate medical care to poor food, ventilation, etc.”
Investigators from the El Paso Field Office of the OIG investigated serious problems at RCDC several years ago and arrested five of the facility’s contract officers. According to a 2006 report by OIG to Congress, “three correctional officers accepted money from inmates in exchange for smuggling contraband into the detention center, a fourth correctional officer was sexually involved with an inmate, and a fifth correctional officer was sexually involved with an inmate and accepted money from him and other inmates for smuggling marijuana into the detention center.”
“Prisoner riots are relatively rare occurrences,” reads the ACLU letter. “For this reason, two serious disturbances within a two month period at a single facility is sufficient cause for great concern about RCDC…the investigation should address the appropriateness of the facility’s immediate response to both of the recent disturbances, and any action taken by the facility in the brief period of time in between the two events.”
“The abhorrent conditions that seem to exist at RCDC cannot continue to exist,” Alexander said. “The prisoners at RCDC have a constitutional right to things like basic levels of medical care and adequate food and officials are obligated to ensure that prisoners receive them.”
A copy of the ACLU’s letter to the OIG is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison/conditions/38673res20090205.html
Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison
Additional information about the ACLU of Texas is available online at: www.aclutx.org
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