Why is the Federal Prison in Big Spring on Lockdown?
BIG SPRING, TX — A federal prison facility in Big Spring went into lockdown June 9. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, “All visiting at this facility has been suspended until further notice.” No other official explanation is offered.
The lockdown affects the Federal Correctional Institution, or FCI, that is co-located there with a prison camp. The FCI houses 1,200 inmates and the camp an additional 200.
According to the wardens’ union, Local 3809 at FCI Big Spring, trouble started at the prison at the end of May when a warden was attacked after discovering contraband on an inmate. Correctional Officer Hunt was making the rounds and saw the glow of the screen of a smart phone underneath a blanket. Hunt attempted to get the inmate to turn over the cell phone, but the inmate refused.
Inmates are not allowed to possess cell phones.
What ensued was Hunt being attacked by at least two inmates before backups could arrive. “Hunt was gravely outnumbered and recognized that he was facing the possibility of major injuries or worse for himself should he continue to try and secure the contraband,” a union post states on Facebook.
The union called the incident “an all out fight.”
The union claimed staffing levels are too low to control the environment and that the prisoners there now have the upper hand. “Over the past two years FCI Big Spring has developed a major contraband issue. It’s not a coincidence that this aligned with a self-imposed Bureau hiring freeze, staffing cuts, increased augmentation etc.,” the union states.
The prisoners are making money there behind bars, the union stated, and the inmates will do whatever it takes to continue the moneymaking operation. This concerns the wardens. The union mentions one federal correctional officer, Lt. Teniente Albarati, stationed a federal correctional facility in Puerto Rico, was gunned down and killed while driving home in 2013. In January 2015, 10 inmates there were indicted for hiring an outside hit man to kill Albarati. The inmates financed the killing from inside the prison.
The union in Big Spring hints of fears something similar could happen there. “A staff member was assaulted, and one week later, not near enough has changed inside and outside of our fence. If anything, the lack of Correctional sense and grossly unremarkable response in the aftermath to the entrance of contraband & threatening behaviors from inmates has emboldened the inmate population to heights we have never seen toward our staff before locally,” the union stated.
When asked if the lockdown happening now is related to the May 30 assault on a Officer Hunt, they replied, “It is related but there is also much, much, much more to it all.”
The union believes staffing levels are too low to control the inmate population, especially with the introduction of contraband. “We’ve also had a reported 5 recent cases of staff who have dealt with illness due to exposure to drugs during searches, 2 of which have required immediate medical treatment,” the union stated.
The union is hoping that by shining a light on the security problems at the Big Spring facility, federal officials will be more responsive to their fears.
FCI Big Spring is located on the former Webb Air Force Base. Notable prisoners who have been housed there include Anthony Pelicano, the former private investigator for Hollywood celebrities including Tom Cruise, Steven Seagal and Michael Jackson. He was convicted in 2008 for illegal wiretapping, racketeering and wire fraud. His sentence ends in 2019, and he is currently housed at FCI Terminal Island in Los Angeles.
FCO Big Spring also housed former Tom Green County Commissioner Yantis Green for a short while. Green served a year in prison for theft starting his confinement there. He is now the editor-in-chief of San Angelo LIVE! Former Hirschfeld Steel CEO David Hirschfeld also served part of his one-year prison sentence after his conviction for tax evasion there in the 2000s.