In 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.
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.
To round out 2012, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered by our blog. Our number four story are the two private immigrant detention centers - the Corrections Corporation of America's Houston Processing Center and Community Education Centers' Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center - highlighted as amongst the worst detention centers in the country by a national report issued by Detention Watch Network.
TPB Big Story #4 - Conditions at Two Texas Detention Centers Highlighted In "Expose and Close" Campaign
Texas immigration advocates (including Grassroots Leadership, a sponsor of this blog) have 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.
According to the reports, the Polk facility in particular had egregious conditions. According to the groups' press release:
"At Polk, detained men eat, sleep, and use the bathroom all in one room. The cells are dreary, lack natural lighting, and do not offer privacy. Neither meaningful programming nor legal services exist at Polk. One man detained at Polk told members of Texans United for Families, “This isn’t a good place; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
In December, over a hundred protestors from a diverse coalition of Austin and Houston-based human rights group gathered to for a Human Rights Day vigil to call for the closure of the detention center and denounced profiteering from the detention of immigrants in the US.
Texas immigration advocates (including my organization, Grassroots Leadership) have 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.