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May 2017

Deaths in immigrant detention centers are on pace to double from last year

According to the Daily Beast, individuals locked up in immigrant detention facilities are on pace to die at a rate twice as high as last year.

The Daily Beast was able to obtain records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency that runs the sprawling immigrant detention system. Since the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year, which began in October of 2016, eight individuals have died in ICE custody. Most recently this includes Jean Jimenez-Joseph, who hung himself in his jail cell, and Atulkumar Babubhai Patel, who died of congestive heart failure.

According to the Daily Beast, the number of deaths (eight) in fiscal year 2017 is almost equal to the number in fiscal year 2016 (10), and is on track to double that number. All but one of the deaths this year took place in privately run facilities. Last year, all but two of the deaths occurred in private facilities.

Another issue is the possibilities of prisoners in these facilities committing suicide. Earlier this month, a woman detained at the Karnes Family Residential Center attempted suicide. In a low moment, she believed that her death would allow her children, who are also detained, to be released as they cannot be in the facility without a parent or guardian.

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Private prison's scheme to license baby jails fails in Texas

Karnes County Civil Detention Center
A proposal written by a private prison company to license baby jails as child care facilities has failed, according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

Two Reeves County Detention units to close down indefinitely

The Reeves County Detention is closing two of its units indefinitely, reports CBS 7.

 County Judge W.J. Bang stated in a release that Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the detention center will be closed after July 31. They will close following the loss of a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The contract, which was for 3,600 prisoners, was instead awarded to the GEO Group at their Big Spring units.

 There is a possibility that Unit 3 of the detention center could remain open for another year, as the county and BOP negotiate a bridge contract that would allow time for relocating prisoners.

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A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

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The federal government is looking to increase private prison beds

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking to increase the number of beds prisons, reports CNN.

In April, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) issued a notice stating they were looking to increase the number of beds in Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities. These facilities are operated by private prison companies and are used to incarcerate non-citizen immigrants who are mostly convicted of low-level drug offenses or civil immigration offenses. In the U.S. there are 11 such facilities, operated by three private companies: CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation. The addition of over 1,500 beds would take the overall population of immigrants in CAR prisons to over 22,000.

This shift is the opposite of what the Obama administration planned for the future of these federal prisons. Last August, then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo stating that the DOJ would begin to phase out the use of private prisons in the federal prison system. The original goal from the Obama administration was to reduce 7,000 beds by May 1st. That memo and plan was overturned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded Yates’ previous memo.

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State Senator accused of accepting bribes from private companies

Federal prosecutors have indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti for accepting bribes from a private prison medical contractor, reports the San Antonio Current.

Federal prosecutors revealed last week that the senator had been involved in a lawsuit against the Reeves County Detention Center following the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo. When Galindo was first detained in the facility, he told prison staff that he had a history of epileptic seizures. He complained about not receiving his medication and ended up in solitary confinement. He begged to guards to not put him into solitary in case of another seizure. The ACLU, which sued on behalf of Galindo's family, listed Physicians Network Associates (PNA) as a defendant. PNA was the private medical company that the detention center had contracted with to provide their medical care.

Private prison stocks: the ups and downs

Stock in private prison companies has been changing a lot in the past few months, reports the Motley Fool.

Two of the nation’s largest private prison companies, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, have been experiencing a fluctuation in their stocks over the past few months. Following the announcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) last August saying they would begin phasing out the use of private prisons, stock in those private companies dropped dramatically. It seemed that private prison companies were on the decline and would soon lose a large source of their profit.

Then Donald Trump was elected President. Running on a platform of “law and order” and an increase in immigration enforcement, his election seemed a boon to private prison companies. After the election, stock in private prison companies soared, with stock in CoreCivic increasing by 34% while the GEO Group saw an increase of 18%.

According to the Motley Fool, sentiment is changing as investors believe that the president will be ineffective in pushing policy, and the thought of his possible impeachment during his term. This has led investors to move away from private prison companies, with stock in CoreCivic dropping by about 12%. The GEO Group saw their stock drop by about 9%.

Bill that would license "baby jails" dies in the Texas House

A bill before the Texas House of Representatives that would allow the licensing of family detention centers as child care facilities has died, reports The Eagle.

The bill, which was authored by by Rep. John Raney, was not heard before Thursday's midnight deadline to hear bills. The bill, House Bill 2225, would have allowed the two family detention centers located in Texas to be licensed as child care facilities. By licensing the facilities, the women and children detained in these detention camps could have been detained for even longer periods of time. The Senate version of the same bill was passed 20-11 along party lines and was referred to a House committee, where it could still be sent to to the House floor for a vote.

Family detention centers are mostly empty — so why license them?

According to KUT, the two family detention centers in South Texas are mostly empty, leaving immigration judges who had been relocated to the centers with nothing to do.

Due to a low number of people being detained at the border, the number of individuals in the two family detention centers in Texas has dropped dramatically. Between the two facilities, there are only a few hundred people detained. The two facilities have a total capacity of more than 3,000.

Another reason for the low numbers is due to a federal ruling that stated that children could not be held in a secure, jail-like facility. To comply with the ruling, Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the federal agency that contracts with the family detention centers — must release the children and their mothers in a short amount of time.

To bypass that decision, Texas State lawmakers this year proposed a bill that would allow the state to license this family detention camps as child care facilities. This bill, if signed into law, would be used to circumvent the ruling that an Austin-area judge made in a lawsuit but forth by immigrant families and allies against the licensing.   

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Texas Senate passes bill that will license 'baby jails' as childcare facilities

The Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow family detention camps to be licensed as child care facilities, reports Raw Story. The bill now heads to the House.

The bill would allow family detention centers to be licensed as child care facilities, which would extend the length of detention for mothers in children detained at the centers. A federal judge ruled in 2015 that children could not be held in secure facilities that are not licensed child care facilities. To try and circumvent that ruling, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) approved a rule that would allow the licensing of family detention centers to continue.

This approved rule was then challenged by a lawsuit that was filed by immigrant families who had been detained in Karnes and Dilley — the two family detention centers located in Texas. An Austin-area judge issued a final judgement in December of 2016 that prevented DFPS from licensing the facilities. This ruling has been appealed by the Texas Attorney General.

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