McPrisons on the Border?
The members of STOPP -- including the Texas Civil Rights Project and the ACLU's Jail and Prison Accountability Project -- are not only opposed to building more jails to house nonviolent first-time offenders, Villareal said, but are also opposed to this project because it will likely be run by a private vendor. So far, there are nine proposals to build the facility, eight of them from private vendors -- including incarceration-for-profit giants Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of America. The private prison industry has been plagued by problems -- including riots at various facilities and numerous cases of sexual assaults of inmates by guards -- and yet is well insulated from public scrutiny (see "Beaten by Wackenhut," July 5, 2002).
Villareal said that two public hearings have been held near Laredo, and that federal officials are currently reviewing the various proposals. Still, he said, there is a dearth of specific information about the project, and of official documentation evidencing the need for the new facility. "It's moving ahead," he said, "and the only question seems to be when they're going to do it, not if it's going to happen." A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service for Texas southern district could not be reached for comment.