Thursday, February 5, 2009

Smoke and Shadows in a West Texas Prison Town

It's a sad and deplorable. It's part of our national reality, though. As immigrant prisoners repeatedly riot at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, there is palpable concern in this West Texas town not about the condition of the inmates, who have set fire to the prison to protest lack of medical attention, but about the future of "economic development."
As smoke rose over the town, county residents and officials expressed anger that the imprisoned immigrants were endangering their livelihoods and county financial stability. More than three-hundred county residents are employed at the prison, and the county desperately needs a high inmate county to get the per diems ("man-days") from the federal government to pay down its revenue bonds.
It is commonly said that immigrants in America live in the shadows without papers. Here, however, the thousands of imprisoned immigrants are deep in the shadows of a prison system over which there is little transparency, accountability, and information. As the smoke billows over the town, the office of the county judge (the highest government official in rural Texas counties) keeps the prison contract under wraps and blocks access to the prison, to the prisoners, and to information about the conditions in the prisons and the concerns of the inmates.
Although charges of the county, these inmates are hidden from all public review. They have been pulled out of the shadows of American life and dropped into the isolation of remote and dying rural towns whose lifeblood depends on keeping lots of immigrants locked up and occupying prison beds that yield per diem payments.
Here are more photos from a distance of the golden goose of Reeves County that is getting smoked.

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