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Thousands Of Texas Prisoners Stage "Uprising," Take Over Prison

About 2,000 prisoners in the Willacy County Correctional Center rioted Friday. Calm returned by late Saturday, though the facility was so badly damaged it was "uninhabitable."

Posted on February 21, 2015, at 7:58 p.m. ET

Tent-like domes being erected at the Willacy County Correctional Center on July 13, 2006.
Joe Hermosa / AP

Tent-like domes being erected at the Willacy County Correctional Center on July 13, 2006.

As many as 2,000 inmates at a Texas prison rioted and staged an "uprising" Friday, and authorities spent much of Saturday negotiating to end the conflict.

The incident began as a protest Friday morning when the inmates at the Willacy County Correctional Center, in southern Texas, refused to report to work and eat breakfast, the Valley Morning Star reported. Inmates then "breached" their housing units — which are a collection of massive tents — and entered the yard, the Associated Press reported.

Officials have now gone up on the roof of the facility, some with firearms in hand @kgbt

Nora Salinas@NoraKGBTFollow

Officials have now gone up on the roof of the facility, some with firearms in hand @kgbt

1:46 PM - 20 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

Some inmates reportedly set fires in the tents. Corrections officers eventually responded by firing tear gas at the inmates, according to a statement from Management and Training Corporation, the private company that runs the prison.

The Willacy County Correctional Center is located about 45 miles from Brownsville, Texas, which is on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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The local sheriff said some inmates were armed with "pipes they can use as weapons."

Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence spoke to the AP Saturday and said negotiations with the prisoners were ongoing. Though he didn't provide additional details, he did say the situation had escalated from an "uprising."

Spence also told reporters the inmates were armed with kitchen knives and sharpened mops.

Willacy County Sheriff Spence says inmates inside prison used kitchen knives and sharpened mops and brooms as weapons

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Willacy County Sheriff Spence says inmates inside prison used kitchen knives and sharpened mops and brooms as weapons

5:14 PM - 20 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

The inmates were protesting medical services at the prison.

As the conflict began, inmates began expressing frustration about medical services at the prison, KGBT reported.

A 2014 report from the ACLU also accused the prison of neglecting inmate medical needs. The report states that among inmates, there is a "widespread sense that corners are cut and basic medical concerns are often ignored or inadequately addressed by staff."

The report cites specific examples of inmates' needs going unattended.

At MTC Willacy where inmates outside chanting. This looks like @kgbt photog in foreground.

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At MTC Willacy where inmates outside chanting. This looks like @kgbt photog in foreground.

11:58 AM - 20 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

By late Saturday, the inmates were "compliant," but the prison itself was "uninhabitable," according to a statement issued to BuzzFeed News.

The Bureau of Prisons issued a statement Saturday saying "the inmates are now compliant." However, staff members were still talking with the inmates in an effort to regain complete control‎ of the facility.

The statement added that the facility "is now uninhabitable due to damage caused by the inmate population."

Plans were underway Saturday to move 2,800 inmates to other facilities.

The FBI — which was assisting authorities in the conflict — also provided BuzzFeed News with a statement Saturday evening stating it was, "encouraged by the progress made today. The inmates are cooperating and it appears they are interested in resolving the matter as well."

The prison houses inmates who are awaiting deportation.

According to the LA Times, the Willacy County Correctional Center receives "deportable individuals" who have committed federal crimes. The inmates at the facility are eligible for deportation after finishing their sentences, the LA Times reported.

Here's the pic w/ @krgv photog & @KRGV_Kirk in action. To the the left are MTC Willacy inmates.

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Here's the pic w/ @krgv photog & @KRGV_Kirk in action. To the the left are MTC Willacy inmates.

12:22 PM - 20 Feb 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

The prison has had problems in the past, including a riot almost exactly a year ago.

The inmates at the facility previously rioted last February. The prison also has seen guards charged with cocaine smuggling and sexual abuse.

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