The following is a media release published Wednesday by LULAC. On Thursday, LULAC held a press conference outside Big Spring Correctional Center in Big Spring, TX. This is the Facebook Live link that conference.
José David Garache Muñoz, a Honduran immigrant sentenced to one year in prison for unlawful entry, was savagely beaten into unconsciousness by three correctional officers—allegedly led by Warden Bobby Thompson. José and other inmates state that approximately four correctional officers went into Jose’s cell on the night of August 11 at around midnight. The guards handcuffed José, and it is alleged the warden pepper sprayed his face. The four of them dragged José to an area not covered by video cameras and proceeded to beat him savagely. José went into convulsions and lost consciousness. Sources reported that two other Honduran inmates were also savagely beaten as they tried to intervene. Although José is now conscious and badly beaten, little is known of the other two men, except that one has died while in custody in “the hole” as a result of the terrible beat-down. All that is known about him is his first name was Sergio.
At the request of LULAC, the family has been allowed to visit José on two different occasions. The family reported that while visiting José, there have been attempts to intimidate them. The family reported that the guards were giving them mean looks and laughing at them and at one of the visits one of the brothers was yanked hard by a female officer as he went through check-in.
After speaking with his family about his beating, José was placed in the “hole” (a type of solitary confinement). At the last visit on August 25, his brother reported that José was not doing well and was having a hard time breathing. José informed his brother Darwin that he had requested to see a doctor since he woke up from his coma over a week ago and to-date he has not been seen by a medical doctor
José’s family is alarmed that Jose might not make it out alive. José has informed his family that he is constantly taunted by guards that tell him, “Who knows when you will see a doctor, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe never!” As reported by his family, José is gravely ill as a result of the beat-down and in need of hospitalization.
On Friday August 31, José’s family was notified by a prison source that Sergio, the second man who was beaten at the same time as Jose, died of the beating that same day while in “the hole.” At this time nothing is known of the third man who was also beaten.
LULAC and the Hispanic Community are outraged that this private prison, operated by the GEO Group, is acting above the law and is assaulting and abusing Hispanic inmates at will. Letters from José as well as other inmates document a pattern and practice of denying inmates necessities such as water for long periods of time and of capricious punitive behavior for the slightest infraction that included taking away their coffee and other possessions. There is even a documented attempt by a correctional officer trying to initiate sexual contact with José. When José rejected his advances, he was punished.
José, as well as other inmates, report that staff at the Big Spring Correctional Center are quick to arbitrarily and capriciously designate them as a Code 212 or a Code 203, which respectively labels them as instigators in organizing a revolt or threatening another with bodily harm. Labeling allows the staff to place inmates in the “hole,” where they may be incarcerated for an indeterminate amount of time.
It is important to note that the DOJ in August 2016 announced the phasing out of privately-run prisons. DOJ announced that privately-run prisons “compare poorly” to government-run institutions, according to the Texas Tribune. As far back as 2014, the ACLU reported that medical care at the GEO-run Big Spring Center was insufficient and cited numerous case histories. The ACLU also noted at the time the over-use of “solitary confinement” at the Big Spring Correctional center for small infractions or infractions that do not exist at all. The order to close these facilities was subsequently withdrawn by Attorney General Jeff Sessions upon the election of Donald Trump and his “zero tolerance” immigration policy. It was also reported by the Center for American Progress that the GEO Group contributed generously to the Trump campaign and inauguration.
Due to the continued rampant abuses at Big Spring Correctional Center, LULAC is asking that Warden Bobby Thompson —and other staff responsible for beating down inmates— be relieved of duty while a complete investigation of this prison is conducted. Furthermore, we ask that those involved in assaultive behavior be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and we further recommend that this prison be permanently closed —as recommended by the DOJ back in 2016— due to a history of abuse and failing to protect the safety of inmates.
Finally, LULAC asks that the two other men that were beaten be identified and their health status or death be confirmed and their respective families are notified. LULAC believes that a prison sentence should not turn into a death sentence for an inmate, whose often only crime was to come to this country in search of the American Dream.
The GEO Group has issued a statement about these allegations:
“On August 11, 2018, staff at the Big Spring Flightline Correctional Center responded to a potential disturbance within a housing unit. Staff identified three inmates as the primary instigators of the unit’s disruptive behavior and they all became combative with staff. Per standard protocol, staff used pepper spray to gain the compliance of the first two inmates and they were both immediately taken to medical services for an assessment. One was treated on-site and received no injuries. Upon showing signs of distress, the other inmate was transported to the local hospital where he was treated for eye irritation and discharged the same evening. The third inmate was treated at the local hospital for a pre-existing condition. No other injuries were sustained as a result of this incident and the procedures and processes followed were in accordance with all applicable policies and procedures.”
This is a local report about the LULAC press conference: