After 2,000 inmates, mostly immigrants, took over a Texas prison in a riot over poor medical services, federal authorities have decided to relocate all the detainees from the now “uninhabitable” correctional facility.
The riot at the Willacy County Correctional Center erupted on Friday afternoon, when prisoners refused to eat breakfast or report for work to protest medical services at the facility.
The prison was practically run over by the inmates, who continue to hold down the fort. It still remains unclear what medical service issues had upset the inmates. Only around 800 to 900 inmates have refused to riot in a facility that holds some 2,900 people, most of whom are immigrants with criminal record.
Negotiations were ongoing Saturday in an effort to “regain complete control” of the prison after multiple agencies, including federal and state authorities, became involved in securing the perimeter, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the US Bureau of Prisons. The spokesman added that prisoners are “now compliant,” but might be moved to other institutions as damage from rioting made the facility“uninhabitable.”
FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said Saturday evening that the situation “is not resolved, though we’re moving toward a peaceful resolution,” at the correctional facility run by Management & Training Corp. (MTC)
According to MTC, on Friday inmates “breached” their barracks and reached the recreation yard, setting fire inside three of the prison’s housing units.
“Correctional officers used non-lethal force, tear gas, to attempt to control the unruly offenders,”spokesman Issa Arnita said in a statement.
There is no danger to the public as the two perimeter security fences were not breached by the inmates, authorities say.
According to Sheriff Larry Spence there were no hostages in the standoff. So far only minor injuries have been reported since the inmates “have pipes they can use as weapons.”
Willacy prison was described as “overcrowded” and “unclean” in a June report from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said inmates’ medical concerns were “ignored” or “inadequately addressed by staff.”