Immigration Detention

Big Stories of 2012 - #4 - Conditions at Two Texas Detention Centers Highlighted In "Expose and Close" Campaign

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) havePolk protestPolk protest 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.

Advocates call for closure of private detention centers

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.  

Groups working to Fight Private Prison Expansion and Immigrant Detention Host Webinar

This week, Bob and I participated in a webinar hosted by Detention Watch Network and our respective organizations, The Sentencing Project and Grassroots Leadership. The webinar addressed the relationship between for-profit prisons and immigrant detention.  

Cody Mason, with The Sentencing Project, presented on the recent report, Dollars and Detainees: The Growth of For-Profit Detention, where he discussed the growth in ICE and USMS contract capacity for immigrant detention.  Bob discussed how Operation Streamline is driving growth in immigrant detention through the increased prosecutions of certain federal offenses that have moved immigration policy into the criminal justice system.  Also, Emily Tucker with the Detention Watch Network focused her remarks on the problems with mandatory detention and the unjust federal and state policies that have expanding the government’s authority to detain people.  The call also featured Hope Mustakim of Texas; her husband Nazry immigrated from Singapore several years ago and due to changes in immigration policy was detained in the South Texas Detention Center in 2011.

A few notable facts reported during the webinar are:

  • State and federal prisoners held in private prisons grew 37% between 2002 and 2010;
  • Detainees held in private prisons increased by 259% between 2002 and 2010;
  • Operation Streamline has contributed to immigrant detainees held by USMS increased by 121% 
  • after 2005, despite Border Patrol Apprehensions decreasing by nearly 250%;
  • Operation Streamline has also led to a 136% increase in U.S.C. 1325 (improper entry) prosecutions and 85%; increase in prosecutions for U.S.C. 1326 (reentry of removed Aliens) prosecutions in both the W. Texas and S. Texas Districts;
  • 60% of people in detention are there under mandatory detention laws; and 
  • Obama administration's immigration enforcement policy targets individuals with criminal convictions.

Nearly 200 people registered for the webinar, representing communities of faith, impacted communities, and organizers working towards immigration and criminal justice reform.  Folks can download the webinar here until August 29th. 

Austin protestors target Wells Fargo private prison investments

On Tuesday, I participated in an Austin protest against Wells Fargo's holdings in private prison corporations GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America.  The coalition of immigrant rights groups (including Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families) called on Wells Fargo to divest of their holdings in the for-profit private prison industry.

Nearly half of the more than 33,000 immigration detention beds in the United States are operated by private prison corporations, and the detention system will cost taxpayers more than $1.7 billion this year. Benefiting from this practice are companies like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, as well a companies like Wells Fargo, that have invested in the growth of the private prison industry.

For more on the Austin protests, see the Grassroots Leadership or Texans United for Families facebook pages.  And, for more photos and videos from other Wells Fargo protests around the country, check out the National Prison Divestment Campaign, coordinated by Enlace. 

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