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Reactions to Hutto sexual abuse scandal

Several civil and immigrant rights organizations have issued condemnations of the reported sexual abuse of female detainees at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  The ACLU of Texas issued a statement that included the following:

“The continued occurrence of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities demonstrates the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively in implementing reforms like improving detention standards, strengthening federal oversight of private providers like GEO and CCA, or better yet, eliminating the use of contract providers altogether,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas.

In recent years guards have been accused of assaults of women at a number of immigrant detention facilities in Texas. Also at Hutto, another CCA guard was fired in May 2007 after he was discovered having sex with a detainee in her cell. In 2008, a guard employed by another private prison provider, GEO, at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall reportedly impregnated at least one detainee. Most recently, in April 2010, a guard at the Port Isabel Detention Facility in Los Fresnos, Texas was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting female detainees being kept in medical isolation.

The National Immigrant Justice Center of the Heartland Alliance also issued a statement that included this passage:

“How many more lives are ICE and President Obama willing to put at risk before taking meaningful steps to end human rights abuses in the immigration detention system?” responded Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. “Women – we do not even know how many – have now suffered the trauma of sexual assault because of the failure of ICE leadership to respect the human dignity of those in its custody and implement meaningful reform.”

And Grassroots Leadership, my organization, issued a statement (PDF) today that included this,

“These reports show the vulnerability of detained immigrants, especially women, in ICE’s vast and largely private immigrant detention system,” said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership.  “ICE should immediately re-evaluate its contracts with all private prison corporations, and speed the pace of reforms to its system.  We are gravely concerned about the reality of women incarcerated for-profit and the impact of these closed corporate facilities on the lives, health and well being of women detainees.”

ICE’s release of information about the reported abuse before a holiday weekend also drew criticism.  “ICE has touted its move towards transparency and accountability,” Libal said. “Releasing this report on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend and just hours after meeting with senior administration officials and key detention advocates at the White House is anything but transparent and accountable.”

We'll keep you posted on what is sure to be an ongoing story in the fallout of this scandal.