McAllen and the RGV
McAllen, TX has been keeping a secret. The city is accepting requests for qualifications from private prison operators willing to build a new 1,000-bed prison two miles from downtown. They kept the deal secret for more than a year. Now the public hearing is this Wednesday.
McAllen is an economic hub for shoppers and diners from around the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. Our city treasures public art, wild life, our heritage and history, and our families. But, the reputation of our city will be harmed by the construction of a private prison. Not only do private prison companies have an established track record of poor conditions for guards and detainees, but these projects can actually stunt economic growth for the city or region according to a recent study.
Our city should not engage in projects that have been proven to undermine rather than encourage economic development. McAllen should not make the same mistake as Littlefield, Texas and Montgomery County of contracting with private prison companies only to be left covering the losses when the facilities failed to be the cash cows they were initially sold as.
Finally, the track record of companies like GEO and CCA are truly awful. GEO Group has been implicated in the serious mistreatment of young people at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, which Federal Judge Carlton Reeves called a “cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.” At the GEO Group-run South Florida State Hospital, three mental health patients died gruesome deaths in the fall of 2012 that a state-ordered review attributed to staff neglect and cutting corners.
The CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center was so much more violent than Idaho’s other prisons that it earned the nickname “Gladiator School.” In 2009, prisoners at GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center rioted over issues at the facility that reportedly included poor quality of health care and multiple prisoner deaths. In 2007, state officials shut down the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions under GEO Group operation.
The City of McAllen should immediately stop plans to build a US Marshal Service detention facility. Our city's economy and reputation will be harmed by such a project.