Around 2,000 inmates took over the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Texas a little over a week ago. They caused so much damage to the facility during the riot that 2,800 prisoners must be transferred to another location. The prison was deemed uninhabitable after fires were started and the property was severely damaged.
Inhumane Conditions Sparked the Revolt
The correctional center is one of 13 “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons. These facilities are privately run and consist primarily of illegal immigrant offenders (note: majority non-violent). “CAR” prisons hold over 24,000, and 2,800 are housed at Willacy. Prisoners have to sleep in tent dormitories, and are so tightly packed together that their feet can touch the bunk next to them. The prison has been nicknamed “Tent City” among locals.
The conditions at Willacy are inhuman. The inmates are forced to not only live in tight quarters, but are subject to disgusting conditions. There has been raw sewage from overflowed toilets, an infestation of spiders, and a huge lack of medical attention paid to inmates. For example, if an inmate has a toothache, the only solution is an extraction. One inmate had hepatitis C and reported it, but two years later still did not receive treatment. Reports of guard-on-inmate sexual violence has been reported, as well as the use of excessive solitary confinement. Inmates have been thrown into solitary confinement for simply asking for food. After reading this, can anyone blame the inmates for feeling the need to revolt?
Prisoners do not have the same constitutional rights as free citizens, but they are protected by the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates also have the right to due process, right to administrative appeals, and a right of access to the parole process. They are also protected against discrimination under The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Federal prison officials have full discretion to control prisoners and the conditions of their confinement. State prisoners have zero rights to specific classifications under state law. Instead, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has the power to make all decisions regarding inmates and terms of their confinement.
Prisoners are turned into numbers instead of people when they enter the criminal justice system. Too many are subject to horrific conditions that no human should have to endure.