Calm restored at Texas prison where inmates set fires

Officials and inmates still in talks to resolve Texas prison disturbance

Thousands of inmates at a federal correctional center in Texas are being moved to other federal prisons after a disturbance caused damage that left the facility “uninhabitable,” officials announced Saturday.

The process, which is being managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, will continue through next week until all inmates, about 2,900, have been moved, according to a statement from Management & Training Corp., a private company that runs the Willacy County Correctional Center.

Inmates are cooperating with prison officials, the statement said.

The prison is located in Raymondville, about 40 miles northeast of the border town of McAllen. It houses “deportable individuals” who have been convicted of federal crimes and are eligible to be deported once their prison terms are up, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

Official details about the disturbance are scant, though authorities said that inmates had set fires and that tear gas was fired to help restore order.

The incident, described by officials Saturday as a “demonstration,” began Friday morning when inmates refused to report for work duty or appear for breakfast, said Issa Arnita, spokesman for Management & Training Corp. Some inmates were protesting medical services at the facility, and some wanted to be transferred, he said.

"Right now we’re dealing with the disturbance, and then we’ll look into the complaints,” Arnita said.

The prison was locked down at 12:15 p.m., and soon after, inmates broke out of their Kevlar tent housing units and went into the recreation yard. The Willacy County Sheriff's Department was called to surround the facility.

Correctional officers deployed tear gas, and two officers and three inmates sustained minor injuries, Arnita said Friday. He had no further details on the injuries.

Prison officials were still determining how many inmates were involved, according to a statement.

The tension seemed to ease by 5 p.m. Friday, said Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence.

In a June report from the American Civil Liberties Union, Willacy was described as "overcrowded" and "unclean." Inmates also said basic medical concerns were "ignored" or "inadequately addressed by staff."

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

5:15 p.m.: This post was updated with officials saying thousands of inmates would be transferred to other prisons.

The original version of this post was published at 2:10 p.m.

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