Officials Confirm Prisoner Protest at Eden Correctional Facility


"A group of inmates at the Eden Detention Center is refusing to leave the recreation yard and return to their housing units. Throughout this incident, they have been passive. Eden’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT) has been activated to help work toward a resolution and additional teams from other facilities are available to provide support as needed. We have alerted our government partners and local law enforcement," said a spokesman for the company operating the federal prison in Eden.

This was an update sent to us by CCA, Inc. spokesman Jonathan Burns in Nashville following our breaking news report of personnel entering the Eden Detention Facility. The statement was released just after midnight.

This is the original story posted at 11:12 p.m. Friday night:

Personnel in full riot gear were seen entering the prison in Eden at approximately 10:10 p.m. Friday night. There was also an ambulance seen leaving Eden northbound on U.S. 87 towards San Angelo at approximately the same time.

[[{"fid":"23074","view_mode":"preview","type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Personnel in riot gear were photographed entering the Eden Detention Facility on July 29, 2016. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)","title":"Personnel in riot gear were photographed entering the Eden Detention Facility on July 29, 2016. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)","class":"media-element file-preview imgbody"}}]]
Above: Personnel in riot gear were photographed entering the Eden Detention Facility on July 29, 2016. (LIVE! Photo/John Basquez)

Outside indications and sources with inside information about the prison indicate there is an inmate protest underway.

The prison in Eden is operated by CCA, Inc. The prison is noted to be a low-security facility operated by the corporation for the Federal Bureau of Prisons since 1995.

Company officials attempted to run our photographer and a KLST-TV cameraman off when both set up late this evening to investigate reports of a prison riot at the Eden Detention Facility, 702 E Broadway St, in Eden.

Several unconfirmed reports arrived at our offices starting with a voicemail on the San Angelo LIVE! phone system left from a frantic family member at 8:08 p.m. Friday night.

The call, that originated out-of-state, claimed to be from a sister of an inmate at the facility there.

“He has called and said that the inmates are being treated inhumanely. So they are all outside in the yard asking for God’s eyes to see them. He said they wanted to be treated with dignity and like human beings,” the female who in a callback interview claimed again to be the sister of an inmate in the Eden prison.

“He would like for helicopters to come and see them, and see what the situation is,” she said.

We called the person who left the voicemail back and she said her brother, who was serving time after a federal felony drug conviction, called her at 2 p.m. and everything seemed normal. She said he called later Friday just before she contacted us to announce the prison protest.

She said the alleged inhumane treatment began when a new warden took charge in July 2015.

“They were limiting how many could go out into the yard at one time,” she said.

She said her brother told her that the changes were going to take time to adjust to.

The call earlier this evening sounded frantic, she said.

“Pretty much the whole facility was protesting,” she said her brother told her.

We could not verify the identity of the female caller. She stated she didn't want her brother to be singled out. She said, "My brother told me to not reveal his identity or mine," she said. Her area code was from well outside the local area.

Sources close to the Eden facility told us that “the shit just hit the fan tonight.”

The Concho County Sheriff dispatch did not indicate there were any issues with the privately-owned lockup facility along U.S. 87 in Eden at approximately 9 p.m. We called the prison itself, and after being placed on hold for about five minutes, the person who answered the phone said nothing was going on.

The warden, a CCA employee, is listed as Mike Pugh. He has been the head warden at Eden Detention Center in July 2015, according to the CCA website.

A Concho County Sheriff’s Deputy approached our photographer at the scene and told him not to get too close. He said since the facility is operated by a private corporation that any information about a disturbance inside its walls will come from CCA, Inc.

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doesn't treat anyone but it's admin staff properly. The workers don't get raises at all, they are yelled at for insignificant things and when they try to make their working conditions better, they are often fired. The warden was warned from his officers that his policies would not be taken well but he ignored them.

Pancho, Sat, 07/30/2016 - 13:22

Phillip Valdez was the warden at CCA's Kuna, Idaho, "Gladiator School," which earned national notoriety. He was shipped to become the AW at Leavenworth for CCA, then might have been bounced to Eden for unknown reasons. I've heard CCA kept paying him warden's wages to keep his mouth shut.

Pancho, Sat, 07/30/2016 - 09:39

Questions are being raised after a number of prisoners staged a protest at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road. Approximately 140 inmates refused to leave the recreation yard for 14 hours, though prison officials said the situation ended peacefully early Wednesday. The private facility provided scant answers to media inquiries about the episode, however. The aunt of one of the inmates and a local politician are among those asking questions. Corrections Corporation of America, which owns NEOCC, said in a statement: “Overnight, staff at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center secured a peaceful resolution to an incident in which a group of inmates on the smaller recreation yard refused orders to return to their cells. All inmates have now peacefully exited the recreation yard and are secured in their cells. “At no time did any incidents of violence occur, and the community was not in danger. All staff and inmates are accounted for. The facility is secured and remains in lockdown as a precautionary measure while an investigation is conducted. Facility management notified its partner, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and kept officials apprised through the duration of the incident.” CCA has declined to provide any additional comment. State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, a member of the Ohio General Assembly’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, was able to enter the prison Wednesday. Hagan said officials inside told him anywhere from 40 to 240 prisoners were involved and the protest lasted from 2 p.m. Tuesday until 4 a.m. Wednesday. “I attempted to interview the spokesman for the prisoners, but the warden nixed that,” he said. “He said I wasn’t going to be allowed to interfere with their investigation.” Hagan said he wished he had been able to get more information. “I’m not satisfied. We need more transparency,” he said. The CIIC plans to conduct a investigation of the NEOCC within the next few weeks to find out more, Hagan said. The American Civil Liberties Union has had anonymous conversations with current and past NEOCC employees who acknowledge the same issues that inmates have, said Mike Brickner from the ACLU in Cleveland. The issues include a lack of programming for inmates, little training for staff, poor food and a lack of understanding of the rules by both inmates and staff, he said. Warden Mike Pugh spoke to the Youngstown Police Department about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday and informed the city that while the inmates were refusing to leave the yard, the situation was peaceful and the prison did not need any assistance, according to a YPD report. The call from YPD was initiated after a call to the police from Ligia Cabrera of the Bronx, N.Y., whose nephew, Hector Mercedes, is an inmate. Cabrera said her nephew called her Tuesday and said there was a riot going on at the prison. “He asked me to call the police, media — anyone who could get them some help — and then the call disconnected,” Cabrera said. “I called the prison today, and they told me he was safe and still there, but that was all that they could tell me.” Cabrera said she was considering coming to Youngstown to check on the condition of her nephew and was still hoping to get more information. Neither city police nor the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office was called to assist. The Ohio State Highway Patrol did have a supervisor at the prison to provide assistance if needed, but it was not. If any inmates are to be charged in connection with Tuesday’s events, those charges would have to come from either the YPD or FBI because the NEOCC is a private prison. All the men housed at the prison are federal inmates.

Pancho, Sat, 07/30/2016 - 09:59

The parents of a former Eden Detention Center inmate have filed a lawsuit against the privately operated prison, claiming their son died after mental abuse that included withholding a special diet for his medical condition. The wrongful death suit, filed by Conrado Mestas and Rafaela Ochoa Mestas of El Paso, seeks more than $50,000 in damages and was filed just a few days before a two-year statute of limitations expired, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported in Tuesday editions. Conrado Mestas Ochoa was found dead in his cell on May 20, 2001, according to the suit. The family said the inmate suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, metabolic derangement and a skin disorder. (AP, May 21, 2003)

Officials at a privately operated West Texas detention center are investigating the cause of a fray that injured at least 15 inmates. Officials with Corrections Corporation of America said the altercation happened Thursday night at the Eden Detention Center, about 35 miles southeast of San Angelo. The unit remained locked down on Friday. (AP, May 5, 2003)

A daylong riot in which shotgun-toting guards clashed with 400 boisterous prisoners at a privately run federal detention center in West Texas has renewed questions about how well such prisons are operated and monitored. A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said the bureau will review the way the disturbance was handled by CCA's security force. At least 17 people were hurt in the riot, which began shortly before noon Wednesday and ended about 2 am Thursday. Guards fired buckshot into the ground and released pepper gas to quell the disturbance, which reportedly began as a protest against poor food, inadequate recreation and other prison conditions. One guard suffered a broken jaw after he was hit by a rock thrown by an inmate. The detention center is a "low-security" facility reserved for non-U.S. citizens who have less than three years to serve. (Houston Chronicle, August 23, 1996)

Pancho, Sat, 07/30/2016 - 10:06

May 13, 2013
At least one email allegedly sent by an inmate informant to the chief of security at the Adams County Correctional Center predicted the riot that broke out the next day resulting in a guard’s death. Other emails described a “hit list” of prison guards, one of whom was the guard killed. In a lawsuit filed in connection with the May 20 riot, the family of Sgt. Catlin Carithers, the prison guard who was killed, point to these emails and information from the informant as reason to believe Corrections Corporation of America was negligent in Carithers’ death. CCA is the Nashville-based parent company of the Natchez prison. According to copies of the emails obtained by The Clarion-Ledger, the security chief was warned that the leadership of certain prison groups wanted to meet with the warden to ask for changes in medical, food, recreation and laundry arrangements. The emails appear to have been sent to the prison’s security chief from an inmate who had a cellphone inside the facility. At 10:14 p.m. on May 19, the email writer says that the situation is more serious than prison officials seemed to think. He indicated there would be meetings the next day for the heads of the groups to list their requests to Warden Vance Laughlin. The email characterizes one of the new leaders as having a “couple riots on his belt,” and the informant believed most of the inmates would follow him. “People will be ready 4 war tomorow (sic), I am not joking,” he writes, going on to say, “Any officer that disrespect an inmate will be punish (sic).” In the same email, the informant warns leaders would present changes, and if the facility did not comply, they “will burn the place down.” He then warns that it would be a peaceful demonstration, but if the staff interfered, it could “get ugly.” He ends the email by telling them to get ready, that this was serious, and could involve as many as 1,600 inmates. Up to 700 inmates are believed to have participated in the riot. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. CCA officials would not comment on the informant’s warnings but condemned the actions of the inmates.

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