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ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) report: Eden Detention Center

The second detention center covered in the ACLU's report on criminal alien requirement (CAR) prisons is Eden Detention Center, located in Concho County, Texas, south of Abliene. 

According to the report, overcrowding is a problem at Eden. Eden was built to house 950 prisoners and has been operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) since the early 1990s. But it currently house 1,550 people. Cubicles originally intended to accommodate four beds now hold six. Beds overflowing into the hallways are called the "freeway." Water often leaks from underneath toilets, leaving the freeway smelling like urine and feces.  Showerheads and toilets often break and go unrepaired. Many showers also don't have hot water. In addition to poor ventilation, mice, scorpions and cockroaches inhabit the facility, and units often leak when it rains. 

Other unsanitary conditions plague the prison as well. Prisoners reported that, upon their arrival at Eden, they were issued used clothing and underwear, which is thought to have contributed to a scabies outbreak. In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that Eden's drinking water contained excess levels of radioactive radium contamination than the acceptable levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA issued a notice via the city of Eden which stated that people who drink water with these levels of radium are at risk of developing cancer. The only alternate source of water is available through the commissary at 80 cents per bottle, a cost that many of the prisoners cannot undertake. One man claimed that he felt like he was "dying slowly" when he drank the contaminated water. Another man, who must drink a large amount of water each day due to a medical condition and asked for another water source, was denied by CCA officials. The city received a grant to remove contaminants from the water, though prisoners still suspect it may be contaminated. Prisoners still claim that showering in the water produces an itchy rash on the skin. 

The report also says that Eden has a disturbing history of violence. In 1996, 400 prisoners staged a sit-in in the prison yard to protest conditions at the facility. CCA guards allegedly used pepper spray and shot prisoners with shotgun pellets in an attempt to cause prisoners to return to their bunks. Fourteen prisoners were injured, two of whom were hospitalized. Three guards also required medical attention, one of whom suffered a broken jaw. The other two suffered heat exhaustion. A similar incident occured in 2010. In reponse to prisoners' protest of conditions, guards used tear gas. One prisoner reported to the ACLU that, following this incident, a guard asked him, "Did you see me? I was the one with my foot on your head." 

Guards also allegedly punish prisoners for filing grievances on their own behalf or for helping others file complaints. Two prisoners recounted that they were sent to the solitary housing unit (the SHU) for doing exactly that. Leonardo, a prisoner who repeatedly helped fellow prisoners and spent eight days in the SHU, was allegedly told by a CCA guard that he would "lock his ass up again" for aiding others.  

CCA officals reportedly obstruct prisoners' access to confideltial visits and phone coversations with legal counsel. Prisoners have reported that guards open confidential legal mail. When one prisoner attempted to add his lawyer to his list of approved people to call, CCA denied him. Another prisoner said that CCA would not grant him access to unmonitored phone calls with his attorney until he filed a complaint with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  CCA also created problems for the ACLU as they conducted research for the report; in 2011,when attempting to interview prisoners, the warden at Eden would not allow ACLU representatives to speak with prisoners outside of visiting hours. There was allegedly no way to build relationships with prisoners based on confidentiality, as ACLU attorneys were only allowed to meet with prisoners in a crowded meeting room. One man who had initially agreed to speak with the ACLU declined because he did not want to discuss his legal business in a room full of crowded people. When the ACLU tried to schedule a visit for December 2013, the warden denied the ACLU visitation, and a complaint had to be filed with the BOP. It took two months of correspondence between the ACLU, the BOP and CCA for access to be granted. That warden has since been promoted to oversee all five of the BOP's contract facilities. 

The SHU at Eden is always full, according to prisoners. Ten percent of Eden's contract beds are in the SHU, a rate that is higher than other BOP facilities. This percentage is allocated in CCA's contract with the BOP, thus incentivizing the use of solitary confinement. In January 2014, almost every prisoner reported that, upon their arrival at Eden, they spent anywhere between several days to a month in the SHU. As stated above, prisoners can be sent to the SHU for assiting other prisoners in writing grievances. Prisoners also claim that three to four prisoners are forced to sleep in a solitary cell at a time, when the cell was only designed to accomodate a maximum of two people. Conditions in the SHU are reportedly deporable with prisoners reporting only one hour of recreation each day, which is offered at 5:00 am; a tinted window that does not provide a view outside; a toilet per cell, but often no toilet paper; and showers offered at 1:00 am, which are often skipped due to the hour. 

Medical care is also reportedly denied to prisoners. Many prisoners reported not receiving care or medication, and many ailments are treated only with ibuprofen. Prisoners who receive care at all must wait a week to see medical staff. Dental care is allegedly limited to tooth extractions. Medical staff also only speak English, limiting Spanish speakers' access to care. Medications are not refilled in a timely manner, leaving prisoners to wait for days for their medicine. Prisoners with hernias are denied surgery, and diabetics are given insulin and then forced to eat last.