Authorities working on a peaceful end to federal prison disturbance

Willacy County Correctional Center // Action 4 News photo

The disturbance at a federal prison in Willacy County has moved indoors as inmates and officers are working on agreeing to terms, according to officials with the Willacy County Correctional Center.

It is estimated 2,000 federal inmates were involved in what officials called a demonstration at the prison which primarily holds immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. Officials are working to determine exactly how many inmates participated.

Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said inmates inside prison used kitchen knives and sharpened mops and brooms to be used as weapons.

The incident is considered a demonstration not a riot, according to a prison spokesperson.

The inmates held in Raymondville are considered low-level criminal immigrants, according to a news release by the prison TMs operators.

Prisoners refused to participate in regular work duties or attend breakfast early Friday morning, according to Issa Arnita, the communications director for the operators of the facility.

On Friday, corrections officers took breakfast to housing units as inmates began voicing their frustrations about medical services, the director said.

Inmates broke out of the housing area and made their way into the recreational yard prompting a lockdown of the prison. Some inmates were seen shaking the fence.

Fires broke out on at least three of the units at the facility ” known by some as “tent city” ” prompting the Raymondville Fire Department to the scene.

A 2014 report by the American Civil Liberties Union says about 200 inmates are held in each tent. The report also claims “basic medical concerns are often ignored or inadequately addressed.”

At least two officers and approximately three to five inmates received treatment for minor injuries sustained during the disturbance.

The disturbance posed no danger to the public, officials said in a news release. The inmates did not attempt to break out of the prison facility.

All schools in Willacy County were placed on lockdown Friday for precautionary measures.

The Raymondville Police Department, Willacy County Constables Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Willacy County Sheriff TMs Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Texas Rangers , the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT team and other agencies were on scene Friday evening.

Multiple agencies remained on scene throughout the night and into the morning.

Correction: The original version stated the disturbance came to an end, but authorities said they are working on a peaceful end as inmates are still demonstrating indoors as of 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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