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Feb 21, 2015 4:34 PM

Talks ongoing with inmates who control part of Texas prison

The Associated Press

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (AP) Negotiations are continuing with the leaders of about 2,000 inmates who have seized control of part of a federal prison in South Texas in what a sheriff calls an "uprising."

Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence on Saturday declined to discuss the main points of the negotiations but said there are no hostages involved in the standoff at the Willacy County Correctional Center and only minor injuries reported.

"It started early Friday as an uprising and escalated from there," Spence said, explaining that inmates "have pipes they can use as weapons."

Management & Training Corp., the private contractor that operates the center for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said inmates became disruptive because they're upset with medical services and refused to perform work duties.

MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said in a statement that prison administrators met with inmates Friday to address their concerns, but the facility was placed on lockdown.

Arnita said inmates "breached" their housing units and reached the recreation yard. The Valley Morning Star reports fires were set inside three of the prison's 10 housing units.

Authorities say about 800 to 900 other inmates are not participating in the disturbance. The inmates being held at the facility, which is in far South Texas more than 200 miles south of San Antonio, are described as "low-level" offenders who are primarily immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

"Correctional officers used non-lethal force, tear gas, to attempt to control the unruly offenders," Arnita said in the statement.

No inmate breached two perimeter security fences, and there's no danger to the public, he said.

He described the inmates Saturday as "cooperative."

Several agencies responded to the correctional center Friday, but the FBI assumed command of the effort Saturday.

FBI spokesman Erik Vasys on Saturday said he didn't have an update on negotiations.


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