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June 2017

Reeves County is in negotiations to keep a private prison open

Reeves County is negotiating with the Bureau of Prisons to how they can keep one unit of the Reeves County Detention Center open, reports CBS 7.

 Last week, Reeves County announced the closing of two units of the Reeves County Detention Center. The closures follow the loss of a contract the county had with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to detain prisoners. The contract instead went to the GEO Group's Big Spring unit.

 County officials, including the county judge, commissioners, attorneys, and even financial advisors, are working to keep the last remaining unit open. Commissioners voted on Monday to move forward with using the GEO Group to help the county negotiate a bridge contract with the BOP. This would allow the facility to remain open for one year as prisoners are transferred to other facilities.

 Commissioner Paul Hinojos said the county could sell the facility if the bridge contract is not agreed upon. Another option would be to transfer prisoners from other states and government agencies. Hinojos hopes to keep the facility open for another year, afterwhich they will bid on other contracts to fill R1 and R2 (the two closing units).

 

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Another death in ICE custody

A Salvadoran immigrant died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports the Huffington Post.

Carlos Mejía Bonilla of El Salvador was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 1. He was taken to Jersey City Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit for gastrointestinal bleeding on June 8. He died two days later, according to a statement from ICE.

 Carlos was the tenth person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year, which began on October 1. Two of those deaths were suicides. Another woman, detained in a family detention center, attempted suicide in hopes that it would allow her family, who was detained with her, to go free.

 Though the number of deaths this fiscal year is already equal to 2016, and the most since 2011, the federal government is looking to increase the number of beds in private facilities used to detain immigrants. Another report shows that the number of deaths in ICE custody is on pace to double from 2016.

 These deaths highlight the horrible conditions and treatment of people in private prisons, and shows why they must be shut down.

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Former GEO guard given jail time over sexual abuse

A former GEO Group prison guard has been given jail time after sexually abusing a prisoner, reports KSAT 12 out of San Antonio.

 Barbara Jean Goodwin was sentenced to five months in jail, followed by five months of home confinement. She will also serve a two-year supervised-release, and must register as a sex offender. She could have served up to 15 years in jail.

 Goodwin pleaded guilty in March, where testimony from her victim and other inmates said she forcibly performed oral sex on a prisoner over 30 times during a six month period.

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Immigration shuts down alternative to detention program for asylum seekers

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is shutting down a program designed as an alternative to detention for asylum, reports KristTV.

 The Family Case Management Program  was an alternative to detaining families in detention centers, two of which are located in Texas. There were 630 families enrolled as of April 19. The program connected asylum seeking families to social workers who helped participants find lawyers, get housing and healthcare, and helped them navigate the immigration court system. The women who are eligible for the program, or who were previously enrolled, can be expected to wear ankle monitors, which have been reported to cause bruising and ostracism.

 Ann Schlarb, an executive with the GEO Group, the private prison company that contracted with ICE operate the program, wrote that families in the program have thrived, and that 99% of families successfully attended court appearances and ICE check-ins. So why end such a successful program?

 When asked about shutting down the program, an ICE spokesperson said, "By discontinuing [family case management], ICE will save more than $12 million a year — money which can be utilized for other programs which more effectively allow ICE to discharge its enforcement and removal responsibilities."

 If money is the motivator, why close down a program that cost the government $36 a day compared to the cost of maintaining a family detention bed, which costs $319 a day? Alternatives to family detention that don’t subject people to wearing ankle monitors are real. They are successful and cost-effective.

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Family detention centers receive good reports—what did they miss?

Two South Texas family detention centers have received good marks from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The report was done in response to criticism by RAICES, a San Antonio non-profit that works with families in the two detention centers, and other groups who said sexual assaults inside  go unpunished and the detainees are treated poorly. Advocates said that the centers provide inadequate medical care, lack services for families who speak languages other than of Spanish, and that they hold children in jail-like conditions.

 

The report stated that medical care was readily available at the centers, though one of the facilities does not have a pediatrician. The report did not state which facility it was, though because both centers detain children, each should have a pediatrician available. It is questionable if health care is readily available, as there is currently a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stating they interfered with telemedicine procedures at the South Texas Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. Telemedicine is a way for prisoners to undergo medical evaluations on the phone.  

 

In September of last year, the Department of Justice was urged to look into violations of the American with Disabilities Act at the Karnes Detention Center when it was discovered that the school in the prison was inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments. ICE also banned crayons after a detained child "destroyed property" by accidentally coloring on a table while their parent received legal advice.

 

This report comes six months after a DHS Advisory Committee recommended the end of DHS's policy on family detention.

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ICE interfering with medical evaluations

A lawsuit has been filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of immigrants detained at the Dilley family detention center, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project was barred from meeting detainees at the detention center in Dilley, which is operated by CoreCivic, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies. The legal assistant had set up a telephonic medical evaluation without ICE's permission, after which they barred her from visiting.

 

ICE's policy required lawyers to get permission at least 24 hours in advance for medical evaluations. The lawsuit stated that policy interfered with the Pro Bono Project's ability to adequately represent their clients.

The Brownfield state prison is closing!

The state prison in Brownfield is being closed after losing funding in the state budget, reports KCBD 11.

 During the past legislative session, the Texas House and Senate passed a budget that will will result in four state prisons being closed, including the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) in Brownfield. Following the closing of the West Texas facility, the prisoners there will be moved to the Jim Rudd facility, which is also in Brownfield. The Rudd unit will be converted into an intermediate sanction facility. Those prisoners who are currently in the Rudd unit will be transferred to other state prisons.

 The West Texas facility was operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. MTC operates 13 facilities in Texas, including the notorious Willacy County Correctional City, which was destroyed in a prisoner uprising over inadequate medical care at the facility.

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Texas family detention centers violate federal law by holding families for too long

Family detention centers in Texas are violating federal law for holding minors in detention, reports the Associated Press.

 Some families have been detained in detention centers for more than six months, even after Texas lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would license family detention centers as child care facilities. The passage of the bill would have opened the door for families to be detained for longer periods of time.

 Today, the AP reports that maximum time minors are supposed to be detained is 20 days, though many families are detained for much longer than that. Amy Fischer, policy director for RAICES, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, works with detained families and knows of at least seven families who have been held over the 20-day mark.

 Advocates against family detention say that 20-day stays violate federal law. A court ruling in 2015 said minors could not be detained for more than three days unless there are surges in immigration. Currently, the number of people crossing the border is at a low point.

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