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Willacy County Prison Sold for $68M

3 years 8 months 2 weeks ago Sunday, March 12 2017 Mar 12, 2017 March 12, 2017 6:17 PM March 12, 2017 in News

WILLACY COUNTY - Sunday Willacy County Commissioner Eliberto Guerra confirmed Management and Training Corporation (MTC) bought the Willacy County Detention Center for $68 million. 

Problems for the facility started February 2015. 

In 2015, the facility was owned by bond holders through Willacy County and it was operated by MTC.

A riot, allegedly over living conditions, lead to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ending the contract with MTCl; so the facility shut down. 

3,000 inmates were moved to other prisons and 400 employees lost their jobs. 

Connie Pedraza was among them, "It was an all of a sudden thing, we got our slip and were terminated," Pedraza said in February 2017. 

Many former employees struggled to get work, Pedraza said, "I've been out for close to 2 years and I still haven.t found a good job."

Willacy County was hit financially by the shutdown. County leaders were forced to layoff employees following the prison closure. 

Sheriff Larry Spence's department felt the strain. Spence said, "I think they laid off 28, they laid off 4 major slots from my department."

In 2016, Willacy County told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they estimated a loss of over one million dollars to their budget. 

The City of Raymondville also feeling the impact, "five to six hundred thousand dollars a year in water a sewer that we lost," according to Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales

December of 2016, Willacy County filed a lawsuit against MTC. The suit alleged negligence led to the riot and eventual shutdown. 

In a County Commissioner meeting Tuesday, officials announced they came to an agreement with MTC. 

The facility was sold to MTC and the lawsuit was dropped.

The former prison operators became the owners and managers of the facility. 

"We're excited about the county deciding to move forward with MTC as a partner. To hopefully reopen that facility in the near future," said MTC Senior Vice President Sergio Molina following that meeting. 

MTC says they are in talks with the Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) over the future of the facility. 

If MTC signs with BOP, the facility will reopen similar to what it was before. If MTC contracts with ICE, it will likely be used as an immigration detention center. 

MTC adds no matter the decision, repairs need to be made to the buildings. They say the structures were damaged in the riot. 

Molina says, the facility will hold half of the three thousand beds, and will offer an estimated 200 jobs. 

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