Immigration Detention

Montgomery County puts Joe Corley Detention Center Up for Sale

Montgomery County has put its troubled Joe Corley Detention Center - currently operated by GEO Group and detaining immigrants under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement - up for sale, according to a report from Montgomery County Courier ("Multiple firms show interest in Corley facility," March 23rd)

"When Montgomery County commissioners voted to put the Joe Corley Detention Center up for sale in January, County Judge Alan B. Sadler expressed confidence the jail would attract several suitors in spite of its $55 million asking price.

Since then, eight corrections companies have shown a preliminary interest in the 1,288-bed facility, and three firms on the county’s “plan holders” list have inspected the jail within the past two weeks."

Officials at the facility have received interest from eight companies including private prison corporations GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Community Education Centers.  The facility has a troubled history and is currently under federal investigation over allegations of financial misconduct, according to the article.

"Financed with $44.8 million in tax-exempt bonds, the jail was built on projections of growth in the inmate population in Montgomery County. Those assumptions haven’t panned out, however, so commissioners have advertised a minimum bid of $55 million to cover the jail’s outstanding debt (slightly less than $38 million) and to pay any fines from losing the tax-exempt status of those bonds.

The county also would profit approximately $10 million from the sale, county officials have stated.  The Joe Corley center, located at 500 Hilbig in Conroe, houses federal prisoners from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The county received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service when it promised local inmates would account for 30 percent of the Corley’s population by August of this year.

That isn’t expected to happen.  ....  GEO Care is a subsidiary that operates the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Center. Both facilities have been the focus of an investigation for alleged financial misconduct."

We'll keep you posted on developments from Montgomery County.  

Houston Processing Center and Solitary Confinement in the News

Houston Processing Center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, was the site this weekend of a protest by undocumented youth known as DREAMers.  The protesters railed against immigrant detention policies and the inhumane conditions within the facility.  Along with the Polk County Detention Center, HPC was cited as one the nation's ten worst detention centers in Detention Watch Network's Expose and Close campaign.  Univision covered the protest:

 

While the DREAMers protested outisde the facility, the New York Times covered a troubling aspect of so-called civil detention policy - prolonged administrative segretagion (better known as solitary confinement).  Immigrants in detention - including those at the Houston Processing Center - can be placed in isolation for a number of reasons, from disciplinary infractions to concerns for their safety (including mental health concerns and sexuality).  ICE reports that 300 immigrants are being held in segregation on any given day, and according to the article,

Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.

Juan Mendez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, identified the solitary confinement of immigrants as a "breach of [the United States's] obligations under the torture convention."

ICE Begins Release of Detained Immigrants

Men being released from the Polk Detention CenterIn the face of pending budget cuts due to sequestration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released at least 800 people from detention.  ICE has identified those released as “noncriminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories.”  Manuel Perez, currently detained at CEC-run Polk County Detention Center, has stated that “Lots of us are getting out who were brought in for driving without a license or other small things."  The alternatives to detention ICE is implementing are not only more humane but also more much cost effective; the National Immigration Forum estimates that, while detention can cost up to $163 a day per individual, alternatives range from $14 to as little as 13 cents, a 90 to 99 percent savings.  They work, too: Human Rights First found that 96 percent of members of Alterntives to Detention programs attend their final hearings.

We are particularly glad to hear that immigrants are being released from two Texas detention centers recently highlighted in the Expose and Close campaign as among the worst in the nation: the San Antonio Express News reports that 300 have been set free from the Houston Processing Center and 50 from the Polk County Detention Center.   While the Austin American Statesman reports that neither the Williamson County Sheriff nor facility officials have commented, we've heard from inside the Hutto Detention Center that a number of women have in fact been released without bond.

These actions have raised questions about the 34,000 beds that ICE claims they are mandated to fill.  Emily Tucker of the Detention Watch Network told NPR that ICE has "proven that they don't even believe that themselves by releasing these folks." 

While this is good news, it's important to remember that 30,773 people are still detained solely for their immigration status, half of whom are locked up in private prisons.  Hopefully, these releases signal a move towards a more humane immigration system.

CCA employee at T. Don Hutto detention center suspect in murder of girlfriend

In a tragic case in Austin, a man who was apparently an employee at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center has been indicted for the murder of his girlfriend.  According to a report by KXAN ("Murder suspect is former Marine," January 4):

"The man suspected of murdering his girlfriend in Southwest Austin on December 29 is a former Marine who worked as a guard at the T Don Hutto Detention Facility in Williamson County, according to Austin police.

Ryan Clarke, 27, is charged with first degree murder in the killing of Cassandra Clark, 26. An arrest warrant for Clarke revealed Williamson County deputies found him in a white Chevy Trailblazer at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park on Saturday morning. Clarke was slumped over the driver's seat of the vehicle. According to the arrest warrant, Clarke was covered in blood and holding a knife.

Clarke was then transported to Seton Hospital in Williamson County. The following day, Clarke told a hospital social worker he had injured someone at an apartment complex on West William Cannon in South Austin. When Austin police arrived at the apartment, they found Clark dead in the bedroom, with obvious physical trauma."

It's unclear based on the report if Mr. Clarke was employed at Hutto at the time of the alleged murder.

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