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Willacy Co. Still Reeling from Prison Shut Down 2 Years Ago

4 years 9 months 3 weeks ago Tuesday, February 14 2017 Feb 14, 2017 February 14, 2017 5:27 PM February 14, 2017 in News

RAYMONDVILLE - A county and its residents continue to struggle after the closure of the detention center two years ago.

Some businesses in Willacy County were forced to board up their windows. Hundreds of people were laid off after the closure of the center in Raymondville.

It's a day Connie Pedraza said she'll never forget.

"It was chaotic, yes very chaotic," the former correctional officer said.

She said the struggle continues two years later.

"It was rough, very rough because it was our livelihood. It's very hard on our families," she said.

Pedraza said she still has trouble finding work.

"I've been out close to two years and I still haven't found a good job," she explained.

The county also took a major hit after the detention center closed down. The prison brought in millions of dollars in taxes. The county did some layoffs of its own.

"They laid off four major slots in my department. They were looking at dollar signs, trying to get a specific number where they felt comfortable they could make it through the year," Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said.

He said he hopes something is done with the facility soon so more money can come to the county. Pedraza hopes one day the prison may open once again.

"Hopefully they take us back," she said.

The facility currently remains empty.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with Commissioner Eliberto Guerra who confirmed the county is in talks with the prison's former owner, as well as different companies and agencies about the future of the facility. However, nothing is set in stone yet.

He said they are hopeful and expect to figure something out for the place in the near future.

Management and Training Corporation, company that owns the prison, sent us the following statement in regards to the facility's future: 

ICE is actively looking for new beds throughout the United States and they have expressed interest in the Willacy facility. We are working with Willacy County to discuss all options."

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