SPECIAL REPORT: Inside La Tuna
POSTED: Friday, October 29, 2010 - 5:24pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 9:19pm
ANTHONY, TX - Quiet and calm. It's how things appear from outside of FCI La Tuna.
That's the way it should be.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons lists La Tuna as a low security correctional institute; holding only men and imprisoning some of your least dangerous offenders.
But what we're about to show you paints a completely different picture.
A source leaked exclusive government-owned video and pictures to NewsChannel 9.
It's our first look at what's really happening inside.
The threat isn't only against inmates, but the guards who are charged with keeping order here: inside La Tuna.
August 2, 2006.
A riot broke out over several of the housing units between rival gangs.
One of a few to happen in the coming months.
The camera, being held by one of the guards, leads us through Housing Unit 2.
You can see chairs thrown. Several of the cells look as if they've been turned upside down.
Then, after guards regain control, inmates are forced to lie down face down; their hands bound behind their backs with zip ties.
Guards interviewed inmates one at a time.
Some had severe black eyes, others had heads wrapped in bandages.
Chilling, but nothing compares to the next riot, just a little over a month later.
This time, we see not just head bandages, but neck braces, gashes in the back of heads, inmates covered in blood.
Some had to be hospitalized for weeks.
How did it start?
During breakfast at the prison.
The pictures leaked to us show a blood-stained cafeteria.
We're told the attack was between rival gangs.
But what's most shocking is how the inmates were able to do all this damage.
This is the slew of weapons found: it seems anything inmates could get their hands on, they used.
They had shanks made from pencils, pens, and the ends of broom and mop sticks.
They sharpened the lids of cans, stuffed socks with padlocks.
Inmates would swing them at their targets.
In the midst of this chaos, it was remarkable that no one died.
We asked the warden and the staff at La Tuna several times for an on-camera interview.
We wanted to know how the inmates were able to stash so many weapons, how they were able to hurt each other so badly if guards had been around.
We were told to fax in two requests for that interview. But each time, we were denied.
A staff member did e-mail us this statement.
"Unfortunately, because our business is to confine convicted felons, there is always a potential for violence to occur within an institution. In all of the instances referenced above, staff immediately controlled the situation and handled it professionally and effectively," said Hilario Terrazas, a spokesman for La Tuna.
But one guard back in April told Local 4 News things are more dangerous now, than they ever have been.
Just as inmates rioted again.
The prison was put on lockdown after an inmate assaulted another staff member.
They were planning a food strike in protest of poor medical care inside the prison.
This staffer says guards are outnumbered every day.
"There are 1,000 inmates in there and 250 staff members. Look at the numbers, they're not good."
That's just one guard to 25 inmates.
Math that many fear could eventually add up to someones death.
"You know the response team is going to come from phone calls asking staff to respond, but by then, it's going to be too late."
Despite many other prisons allowing cameras in to their facilities, La Tuna leaders said they were, "not interested in participating in an on-camera interview," citing privacy and security concerns.
Leaders did offer us a tour of their prison, but we declined because they wouldn't allow our cameras in.