Golden Years|__|Living off the Land|__|Subscribe Enterprise|
Advertising|__|Alpine Avalanche|__|Monahans News|__|E-Forum|__|Lotto
Links|__|Photos|__|Archives|__|Classified|__|ENTERPRISE HOME PAGE
Skip to next story
By SHANNON BRYER
PECOS, July 10, 1997 - More than 70 visitors attended the first session
of the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) Open House yesterday
"I think it's gone very well. The inmates have behaved themselves and
the visitors have enjoyed it," said Rudy Franco, RCDC warden.
"We want the public to see that it takes a special kind of person to be
willing to work eight hours a day locked up with prisoners. We couldn't
do it if the staff didn't believe in what they are doing. They do a
wonderful job, and we are appreciative of them," Franco said.
"It is very challenging to work here. I have been here seven years. It's
really great. It's like any other job once you know what to do," Aidee
Madrid said. Madrid works as a transportation officer, transporting
federal inmates here, usually from facilities in California.
"The people we work with show cooperation and teamwork. Working here is
good. I've been here for eight years," Duarte said. Duarte is one of two
unit managers and is in charge of units A, B, and E.
"I think this day goes a long way toward dissipating some of the false
ideas people have about prisons. People say we treat the inmates too bad
or too good, but what we do here is based on federal regulations and
sound correctional practices," Franco explained as he officially
welcomed area dignitaries and guests.
"A lot of people have a bad concept of prisons, but the inmates have a
lot of privileges such as clean clothes, air conditioning, and
educational classes. A lot of them have jobs," stated Gabriel Martinez,
Mechanical Service Director. Martinez served as one of the tour guides,
showing groups of 15 to 20 people around the facility.
Elizabeth Fierro enjoyed the opportunity to see where her husband has
worked as a correctional officer for almost four years. "It was about
time for them to show us what they have. We pay for this in Texas and we
can't see what we pay for. I looks like the prisoners practically have
it made. The only thing they don't have is the liberty to go out when
they want," Fierro said.
Henrietta Leyva came with her friend, Lisa Duarte, who is a unit
manager. "They're not animals, they're humans," Leyva told Franco. "I
like how you had them in there. The place was clean."
"We try to treat them with dignity and respect," Franco responded.
The inmates have plenty of opportunities for recreation. Hector Roman
runs the recreational yard. "The inmates have a place to come to play
ping pong and table hockey. We have a system where they can check out
board games like checkers and chess," Roman said.
"Compared to other facilities we've been to, this is a very nice
recreation area," Madrid said.
"We also have intramural sports here. They can compete in softball,
handball, soccer, volleyball, and even horseshoes. This is a city within
a city. We have two movies a day on Saturday and Sunday. We have a
barber shop here. We have a band that rehearses three days a week and
gives concerts on Sundays.
The cafeteria operates "just like Luby's," according to Joe Baeza, food
service administrator. The facility can feed 700 people in 1 1/2 hours.
The kitchen employs 150 inmates. More inmates are employed in the
cafeteria than in any other department. "They don't have to have
experience. If they don't know how to cook, we teach them. They ask us
what to do and we supervise," Baeza said.
"The cafeteria here is just like at school. They get in line, get their
food, sit down, eat, and then go to their cell or to the recreation
area. Today they're having enchiladas, rice, and beans. Sometimes I
think they get to eat a little better than we do at home," Baeza said.
"We don't use food as a punishment. They don't get bread and water if
they misbehave. The inmates in segregation get the same food as everyone
else," Baeza said.
There are usually about 20 prisoners in segregation at any given time.
"Every once in a while there is a fight, so some prisoners need to be
separated from the rest of the population," Franco said.
"What you get put in jail for out there, they get put in segregation for
in here," Martinez said. Inmates can be put into segregation for
fighting, talking back to an officer, and cursing.
To eliminate temptation, knives in the kitchen are attached to two-foot
cables. They have just enough room to use them. Officers take an
inventory of the knives three times a day. "If one is missing, we secure
the cafeteria and search the inmates and the area. If it's still not
found, we secure the entire prison until it's located," Baeza said.
Some of the food for the cafeteria is supplied by the prison farm.
Although the farm supplies less than 10 percent of the prison's produce
demand, it saves from $10,000 to $15,000 per year, according to Baeza.
"The farm serves a dual purpose. It generates work for inmates and
provides produce to the prison," Franco said.
Most of the prisoners do not work. "That's the biggest problem we're
working on. Inmate idleness causes problems. If we offer them something
to do, most of them are willing to participate. We are planning to offer
more vocational training opportunities," Franco said.
Inmates earn 40 cents an hour working in the cafeteria. That is the
highest paid prisoner job at RCDC. "Inmates are willing to work because
they want to buy cigarettes and candy," Baeza said. They can work up to
140 hours a month, earning up to $56.
The money prisoners earn goes into an account. With it, the inmates can
purchase items at the commissary. The commissary has everything a
convenience store has and more. "If they want something that isn't here,
they can request it. They can buy anything you and I can buy on the
outside," Martinez said.
Some prisoners take advantage of educational opportunities. Tony
Portillo is the education director. Prisoners can earn their GED and
learn English. Vocational training is available in agriculture,
landscaping, masonry, plumbing, electrical repair, welding and food
preparation. "In the school, we give achievement, participation, and
student-of-the-month awards," Portillo said.
The school also offers a leather crafting course.
"The leather course is Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. They
make belts, purses, and handbags. Once they finish with the product,
they send it home," Portillo said.
The education department helps the prison achieve part of its mission
which is to "provide the opportunity for inmates to improve themselves
and have a positive reintegration into their community."
Prisoners also help out with facility maintenance and repair. Ruben
Natividad is the tool control officer. "Tool control is an essential
part of prison safety and security," Natividad said. "We make sure every
evening that all the tools are back in place. When new tools are
purchased for any department, they are checked into the tool room before
The prison infirmary has one physician's assistant, one registered
nurse, and four certified nurse's assistants, according to assistant
medical director, Genie Brooks. A doctor comes in two days per week.
"On Mondays we have dental calls, so if the inmates sign up for that,
they are given a pass. If they need dental treatment, they are taken out
to a dentist or specialist," Brooks said.
A flag presentation by the RCDC color guard started a demonstration by
the Disturbance Control Team (DCT) and the Correctional Emergency
Response Team (CERT). The CERT is in place to to extract violent or
uncooperative inmates from their cells.
As a team, the DCT and CERT demonstrated the prison's last resort if an
inmate or group of inmates refused to move from an area such as the
recreation yard. They line up in a V shape wearing protective gear,
including a helmet with a face shield. Every other person holds up a
shield, and the rest hold up a gun. The group advances one step at a
time in response to their leader yelling, "Move!" Franco emphasized that
this action would only be used after they had tried moving the offending
inmates using interpersonal skills.
Franco said that the officers primarily control inmates using
interpersonal skills. Officers are trained in a two-week, in-house
academy before they start work. The correctional officers also have to
pass the Texas Jailers' Test and become certified jailers in order to
work at RCDC. The staff also attends a 40-hour refresher course once a
year, which includes interpersonal skills.
The maximum stay at this low-security prison is two years. The average
stay is 13 or 14 months. Since at least 95 percent of the inmates at
RCDC are deportable aliens, most are turned over to immigration once
their sentence ends, and taken back to Mexico. There are 696 inmates in
the prison now.
Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo went to the Wednesday morning open
house. Sammy Calbone and Tim Browder, warden and associate warden of the
federal prison in Big Spring, respectively, were in attendance, as was
Gary Payne, of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Local school board members
were present as well as city officials from surrounding towns.
"We've had good participation. Everything is running smoothly," said
Tony Perez, assistant warden.
"This prison is crucial to the Reeves County economy," Franco said. With
the present population, the facility will earn more than $8 million this
year. More than half of the money will go into the salaries of its 165
employees. Also, the Reeves County General Fund will receive $400,000
for rent and $150,000 as an administrative fee.
The Reeves County General Budget receives 35 percent of its revenue from the operation of the detention center.
About 14 million Texans are licensed drivers. Roughly 25 percent in
Mexico-border areas, and 20 percent in other regions, are uninsured
despite a state law requiring at least liability insurance.
Bomer and Texas Department of Insurance officials say hefty down
payments and sizable monthly payments contribute to the problem. The
department couldn't say how many Texans choose monthly payments over
single payment options.
"A lot of people have to make decisions about purchasing everything -
insurance, refrigerators, televisions - based on down payment, how much
the monthly payment is going to be and how many monthly payments there
are," Bomer said Tuesday.
Under the proposed rule, insurers could require down payments for up to
two months' coverage. They currently can charge down payments up to 40
percent on a six-month policy and 25 percent on 12-month policies.
The proposed rule also would require insurers to spread premium balances
over five equal monthly payments for six-month plans and 11 equal
monthly payments for 12-month policies.
Balances currently can be collected in three months for six-month
policies and eight months for 12-month policies.
Bomer said reducing down payments and extending payment periods would
help some Texans.
But D.J. Powers, head of The Center for Economic Justice, said the
proposal would do nothing for people who have no access to insurance.
The center has accused major insurance companies of refusing to offer
insurance in certain parts of the state, a practice called "redlining."
"If an insurer is not willing to offer that coverage, it doesn't matter
if the down payment is 25 percent or 50 percent," he said.
Rob Schneider, another consumer advocate, called the proposal a "little
bitty first step."
"Though lower initial payments may allow consumers to make a first
payment, guidelines that force good drivers into expensive ... policies
will continue to keep coverage unaffordable," he said.
Schneider, of Consumers Union, said some factors used to determine
whether a driver gets insurance - credit history, occupation and
residential stability - have a disproportionately negative affect on
That forces them to seek unregulated, more expensive insurance, he said,
adding that it was unfair because the guidelines don't indicate a
drivers' chances of filing an insurance claim.
Bomer agreed. "There are other things out there that are factors," he
said. "But to say that this (proposal) is not important is closing your
eyes to something very important."
Insurers said they already offer payment plans and would face great
costs if forced to change their billing and computer systems. David
Durden, deputy insurance director for property and casualty lines, said
insurers would not have to change their systems if their installment
plans were better than the proposal being considered.
Bomer did not set a time frame for announcing his decision.
It hasn't been a problem, but the rule could be perceived by some as
demeaning or embarrassing, Ms. Reed said.
Students usually know if a dress or skirt is too short, she said.
"Typically there's not even a question," Ms. Reed said.
Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
We support Newspapers in Education
Return to Top
Return to Home Page