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November 2012

Advocates call for closure of private detention centers

Texas immigration advocates (including my organization, Grassroots Leadership) ha

ve joined a national effort to "Expose and Close" some of the nation's worst immigrant detention facilities.  As part of that effort, two private detention centers in Texas - the Community Education Center's Polk County Detention Center and Corrections Corporation of America's Houston Processing Center - have come under fire for a range of human rights violations.  From the organization's press release:

"Today, two Texas organizations released reports detailing inhumane conditions at two privately operated immigrant detention centers in Texas. Texas has more immigrant detention beds than any other state. President Obama made promises to reform the immigration detention system in 2009, however, the reality on the ground has not changed. Immigrants in detention continue to be denied basic needs, such as contact with lawyers and loved ones, inadequate food and hygiene, and access to fresh air and sunlight. They continue to receive inadequate medical care and endure racial slurs and discriminatory treatment by prison staff.

The reports – detailing conditions at the Houston Processing Center and Polk County Secure Adult Detention Facility in Livingston – are part of a national Expose and Close Campaign to highlight conditions at ten of the nation’s worst immigrant detention facilities that exemplify the egregious problems inherent throughout the system. The Campaign is calling for immediate closure of these facilities.  The reports are available online here.

“At the Polk County facility, we witnessed horrific conditions,” said Texans United for Families member Sam Vong. “ICE must shut down this facility as a first step towards reducing its detained population.”"

The organizations are planning a vigil at the Polk County facility on December 8th.   More information on that protest is at Grassroots Leadership's website.  

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CEC leaves Bowie County "high and dry" after dumping jail contract

Troubled New Jersey-based private prison corporation Community Education Center

s announced that it would walk away from a contract with Bowie County to operate two facilities in Texarkana - the Bi-State and Annex Jail facilities.  According to the Bowie County Citizen ("County Jail facility left high and dry," November 19):

"In a letter to Bowie County Judge Sterling Lacy, Michael Peletier, Senior Vice President of CEC, said, “Our obligation to manage this agreement will therefore conclude February 13, 2013.”

Lacy said he received a phone call after receiving the letter and the caller informed Lacy that CEC “just could not turn a profit there anymore which kind of makes sense because we don’t have many contract beds to start with and we have been working for two years to reduce our own jail population. The income is so thin and they don’t see that changing in the next two years. They don’t see Harris County or the state of Texas or anybody putting prisoners out contracts in the future and I think that all contributed to it.”"

As we've reported, Liberty County is considering taking their jail back under public control after CEC dramatically increased per diem rates after Liberty County successfully reduced its jail population.  Perhaps Bowie County will consider following suit?  Bowie County Sheriff James Prince put that option - along with contracting with other private companies on the table.

"Prince said he does not see any problems with the change over and said following the CEC departure if he takes over the management of the jail, Prince said he would re-hire the same staff currently working at the Bi-State and the Annex. Prince said whoever is chosen to take over the management of the jail; he would demand that the employees be hired."



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