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No One Held Accountable in Hutto Sexual Abuse Case

The Taylor Daily Press reported this week that the complicated system of private prisons and varying jurisdictions results in weak accountability measures at the T. Don Hutto Facility. We have covered the developments around the family detention center in Taylor, TX that houses immigrant families including children.

The story utilizes extensive open records documents related to a case of of a prison guard reported to have had an "inappropriate sexual relationship" a female detainee last year. Yet, the complex reality of laws and contracting that created Hutto makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions to hold the alleged abuser accountable. According to the story

On Monday, May 21, the Williamson County District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case, according to the ICE report.

Jana McCown, first assistant district attorney, said the incident and possible charges of official oppression did not fall under Texas law because T. Don Hutto is a federal detention facility.

Several officials at the state and federal level have investigated the incident but found that neither locale had the authority to prosecute the alleged perpetrator.

Yet, while it is illegal for federal prison guards to have sexual intercourse (consensual or not) with prisoners, federal prosecutors cannot levy charges either. The law applied to prisons under the U.S. Attorney General, which does not include ICE detention centers. This was due to loophole in the law that lawmakers fixed after the Hutto sexual assault occurred.

The problem arose with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. The new federal agency took over the detention of immigrants from Immigration and Naturalization Services, an agency under jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, according to a press statement from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

It is truly remarkable that lawmakers could have been so careless and created a situation where no one can be held accountable for sexual abuse. This certainly raises awareness for the fundamental flaw in outsourcing incarceration policy to private prison companies. Creating a context where no one can be held accountable for sexual abuse is bad public policy.

Lawmakers need to seriously consider these policy issues as they rely on private contractors to provide corrections services.

Previous Posts on the T. Don Hutto Facility:

  1. Hutto News Round-up
  2. Hutto Contract Update
  3. More Hutto News - the Problems Continue