Texas Detention Centers and COVID Cases
In the last 12 months, 6 percent of immigrants were transferred to the West Texas Detention Facility. In addition, 6 percent of these immigrants arrived at the facility on the first day. Those numbers are alarming and should prompt an investigation into the facilities' conditions. We will also discuss issues such as COVID cases and transportation arrangements for detainees.
In recent days, dozens of Texas detention centers have been hit by power outages. As a result, prisoners are left without running water, extra blankets, or even hot food. This is an incredibly distressing situation for both prisoners and staff. The state of Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which manages the facilities, hasn't responded to requests for comment.
The winter storm has slowed power generation across Texas and forced the state's energy grid operator to implement major dayslong power cuts. According to local news outlets, numerous people have died in the storm, and the death toll is likely to rise as new information becomes available. Power shortages also forced jails and prisons to go on lockdown for days.
Problems with water
The Texas prison system has a problem with water. Detention facilities in the state suffer from poor water quality due to rundown infrastructure and poor siting. In some facilities, water is black, smells bad, and has sediment in it. In others, water contains dangerous levels of manganese. High levels of manganese can cause neurological disorders and are harmful to the body. Prisons in Texas and Arizona also have high levels of arsenic and petroleum products.
The number of COVID cases in Texas immigrant detention centers has tripled in the past two weeks. The increase has been traced to a man deported from Houston. COVID cases are also rising in Harris County jails. The number of cases in Texas detention centers is a concern for health advocates. COVID is spread quickly, and a person infected with the virus can live without showing symptoms for up to two weeks.
In the state of Texas, the rate of COVID deaths among incarcerated people is more than four times higher than the state's population overall. Yet despite the high rate of infection in incarcerated individuals, these populations have not received a higher priority in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Only seven Texas prisons were scheduled to receive more than one hundred doses of the vaccine, but only health care workers have been lining up for it. Providing the vaccine to incarcerated people sooner is a moral obligation and a public health measure.
Transportation arrangements for detainees
Texas is home to 11 of the top 25 transfer facilities in the United States. California, Louisiana, and Arizona also had top facilities in this category. Illinois, Florida, and Georgia each had one top transfer facility. Obviously, the size of these facilities can affect rankings.
The government is also facing a lawsuit over Abbott's executive order, which will make it harder to transport detained immigrants. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security is relying on contractors for transporting migrants to detention facilities.
Cost of detention
The state of Texas has one of the highest rates of low-level detention nationwide. These detainees pose no threat to national security or are flight risks. According to the Texas Tribune, Texas detention facilities are home to the largest proportion of these low-level detainees. One example is Andrei Dragan, who has been detained in a Pearsall detention center since May 23. He is on probation for a 2010 drug offense.
The cost of detention is so high that the cost of housing one child in a Texas detention camp is more expensive than a stay at a deluxe room at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., according to an unnamed official in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Impact of closures
Closed Texas detention centers may have a big impact on Texas communities. The Rio Grande Detention Center will shut down in October 2023, leaving around 1,600 detainees in the county. This closure will affect small, overcrowded local jails and cooperating witnesses. In addition, the closure may lead to a deteriorating situation for local jails that are already understaffed. The impact will be felt statewide, not just in Texas. Read more here.
In addition to detention center closures, a major concern is the impact on local economies. In Willacy County, the closure of the Willacy County Regional Detention Center resulted in hundreds of job losses, leaving families without a steady source of income. The closure of Rio Grande Detention Center could have a similar impact on local economies.