Cleanup Begins, Adjusters Sent in Following Texas Prison Riot

February 11, 2009

Officials at a remote West Texas prison where inmates rioted for nearly a week have started cleanup and repair efforts.

Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras said that insurance adjusters have been at the sprawling county-owned but privately managed prison complex in Pecos since Feb. 6 and workers have started clearing debris and taking damage estimates.

“We’re getting with (insurance) adjusters, and the Bureau of Prisons and such,” Contreras said of efforts at the Reeves County Detention Center.

Contreras said damage estimates are not yet available.

According to county records, a riot in December that left one housing unit damage has cost the county at least $320,000 in repairs. Contreras said he believed most of the cost would be covered by insurance, though no claims have been approved.

The latest riot, which started Jan. 31 and ended Feb. 5, was prompted by poor treatment, including medical services, according to inmates and relatives who have contacted the news media.

The prison, managed by Boca Raton, Fla.-based The GEO Group Inc., houses criminal immigrants for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Details of the extent of damage to the prison, which sits just at the western edge of Pecos off busy Interstate 20, have been scarce. But during a county commission meeting, Contreras said a portable kitchen had been brought to the prison while repairs to permanent facilities are made.

Parts of at least one building may also have been destroyed, the commissioners said.

Despite the damage no inmates have been moved out of the prison, Contreras said.

Reeves County officials initially built the prison as part of an economic development plan. But about five years ago, when the county couldn’t keep the place filled, it turned to GEO Group.

The prison now holds about 3,300 federal inmates and has become the county’s single largest employer.

Contreras, who said the prison and the management contract with GEO Group predate his tenure, said the prison has been an important part of the local economy for several years. And despite the recent turmoil, county officials have no interest in getting out of the prison business, he said.

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