Economic impact of private prisons
In 2018, Management and Training Corporation out of Utah signed a contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to operate the El Valle Detention Facility in Raymondville.
Since then, it's been used to house adult detainees and Willacy County Commissioner Eduardo Gonzales says it's become one of the crutches of their local economy.
"It's a great asset to the community," Gonzales said. "It's a good paying job. Restaurants benefit from it, hotels benefit from it. I would say at least 50% of the employees are within Willacy County."
Gonzales says along with wind farms, the detention center is one of the largest sources of jobs in the county. With a third of residents living in poverty, Gonzales says the county can't afford to lose it.
UTRGV Criminal justice professor Dr. Gordon Crews says the model of private prisons is always going to be at odds with detainee welfare.
A 2016 Office of the Inspector General Report showed there was more employee misconduct and riots in private prisons than in government-owned facilities.
Gonzales says the MTC-owned facility is under routine review and shows no such problems.
"If private businesses run it, they need to follow the standards the U.S. government and Homeland Security puts in place," Gonzales said. "If it's not, they'll lose that contract."
In a statement, MTC said "The El Valle Detention Facility employs nearly 250 full-time staff. It's estimated these employees spend more than 330,000 annually in the local community, providing vital economic support to the area."
A White House spokesperson confirmed that for now, ICE detention centers are not affected by the president's executive order to phase out private prisons.
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