Buses lined up at the Willacy County Correctional Center on Monday.
Neither the Federal Bureau of Prisons nor Utah-based Management and Training Corp., which runs the privately owned prison in Raymondville, would say where they were headed.
The move followed a riot last week.
Approximately 2,000 inmates took over the recreation yard, scorched three of the prison TMs 10 housing units with small fires and violently shook the fence. They also trashed the prison, which Management and Training Corp. described as uninhabitable.
Many questions about the incident remain unanswered, but one thing is certain: Management and Training Corp. moved quickly to transfer inmates to other prisons and may eventually empty the 2,881-bed Correctional Center.
I would be naive if I say ~I don TMt know what will happen. TM I do know what will happen, said former Raymondville Mayor Joe Alexander. If we lose our prisoners, the income comes down.
Employees may be furloughed or lose their jobs, Alexander said.
They might not be paid. We need everybody to be employed, Alexander said. We need those prisoners.
By Monday morning, buses had removed 570 inmates from the tent prison ” the inmates, primarily immigrants who aren TMt legally present in the United States, live in 10 large tents on the complex ” and started the journey to other privately owned and government-run prisons.
Some will remain in Texas. Others will be transferred farther away.
Emptying the prison may hurt the local economy.
I want the jail to reopen and for there to be work again, so that the money can flow again for the city, said Carlos Gamez, who works at Mi Pueblito Restaurant, 383 E. Hidalgo Ave.
Many regulars at the 20-year-old restaurant work at the prison.
Not everyone, though, is primarily worried about the local economy or the prison TMs future.
Complaints about inadequate medical care, which apparently sparked the riot, had been well publicized. The American Civil Liberties Union and local immigration attorneys have warned about poor conditions at the prison for years.
The frustration apparently boiled over Friday, when inmates refused to join work crews or attend breakfast. Jailers placed the prison on lockdown, according to a news release from Management and Training Corp., but the inmates escaped from the tent-like housing structures and took over.
I would TMve done the same thing, said Juan Cervantes, who lives in nearby Sebastian.
Moving the inmates to other prisons may improve their access to medical care.
If they can get them to the right people that can give them medical assistance, then it will be better for them, Cervantes said.