Immigration Detention

America's Program covers rise of private immigrant detention system

CIPCIPPeter Cervantes-Gautschi at the America's Program ("Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants," October 6) has an in-depth look at the way that criminalization of immigration is benefiting the private prison industry.  Here's an exceprt:

Over the past four years roughly a million immigrants have been incarcerated in dangerous detention facilities in our taxpayer-financed private prison system. A growing number of news reports and investigations confirm that for many of the people funneled into this system, it is a living nightmare. Children were abused, women were raped, and men died from lack of basic medical attention.

These facilities are run by two Wall Street-backed companies that actively promote the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants in the United States -the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

The article also traces the rise of the well-connected private prison lobby in Washington:

GEO CEO, George Zoley, was a Bush “Pioneer” who bundled more than $100,000 in contributions for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, GEO was successful in securing the contract to run the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

GEO hired the services of lobbyists who had held influential positions in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Prisons, Office of the Attorney General, and the office of then-Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to lobby their former employers and Congress. Throughout 2005 and leading up to the largest immigration raid in U.S. history in December 2006, GEO and CCA spent a combined total of over $6 million on lobbying efforts.

On May 1, 2006, while millions of people marched in favor of immigrant rights in 102 cities across the country, GEO and CCA were lobbying the federal government for more business. The marchers, despite their historic turnout and broad citizen base, could not block the growing wave of government support of GEO’s and CCA’s business plans.

And, the article covers the industry's ties to Arizona's harsh new immigraiton law:

The result of this shift in business focus is exemplified by CCA’s role in Arizona’s SB 1070 and both CCA’s and GEO’s roles in other legislative efforts aimed at dramatically increased numbers arrests of undocumented immigrants in over 20 states. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, who received substantial campaign financing from top CCA executives in Tennessee and employs two former CCA lobbyists Chuck Coughlin and Paul Sensman, as top aides, signed SB 1070 into law on April 23.

On Friday, July 30, 2010 the Republican Governors Association, which so far this year has received over $160,000 in contributions from CCA and GEO, and their respective lobbyists, sent out a nationwide solicitation written by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting contributions to fund an appeal of the partial injunction issued by a judge against SB 1070.

In addition to funds raised by the partisan appeal, Brewer’s legal effort has been bolstered by supporting briefs filed with the appeals court by three states– Florida, Texas and Virginia–that have contracts with GEO or with both GEO and CCA. The two prison companies are currently ramping up their political involvement in these states and in several others that have anti-immigrant bills moving through their respective legislatures. In all, twenty states are considering SB 1070-inspired bills, which have been endorsed by their respective Republican gubernatorial candidates, financed in large part by the Republican Governor’s Association.

The entire article is worth a read.  Check it out here.

Immigrant detained at MTC's Willacy County Processing Center escapes, is quickly captured

An immigrant detained at MTC's Willacy County Processing Center escaped briefly on Tuesday, drawing a response by local and federal law enforcement officials, according to a story by Michael Barajas at the Valley Morning Star ("Detainee escapes from agents during doctor's appointment," September 1),

Local police and federal agents searched the Harlingen area Tuesday morning for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee who escaped from agents during an appointment at a local doctor’s office.

Jose Morales Rodriguez, a 34-year-old El Salvador national, escaped from federal custody while at a local doctor’s office, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said Tuesday. She did not release the name of the office from which Rodriguez escaped.

ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along with officers from the Harlingen and San Benito police departments searched the area for the escaped detainee for roughly an hour and a half Tuesday morning. Rodriguez was found hiding in the brush along Helen Moore Road shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, she said.

Rodriguez, a detainee at the Willacy County ICE detention facility in Raymondville, was at a scheduled doctor’s appointment, routine for some detainees, Pruneda said. She did not explain how Rodriguez evaded authorities, saying ICE is currently investigating the incident.  Rodriguez has no known criminal convictions or arrests, Pruneda said.

The Willacy County Processing Center is MTC's notorious "Tent City" detention center, which last week was highlighted by a Human Rights Watch report on sexual assualt in detention centers.

Human Rights Watch report details sexual assaults in ICE-contracted detention centers

A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday identifies numerous cases of sexual assault against immigrants detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's vast and largely private immigrant detention system.  As we reported, last week a former supervisor at Correction Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center was arrested and charged in a case of sexual assault of many detained women being transported from the facilities. 

HRW's report, Detained and at Risk: Sexual Abuse and Harassment in United States Immigration Detention, details several cases of abuse at many of Texas' private immigrant detentio centers.  About Hutto, the report says:

In May 2007, when Hutto still functioned as a family detention center, a young boy was sleeping in a crib inside his mother’s cell when a guard entered and had sexual contact with her. Video surveillance captured the guard, employed by private contractor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), crawling out of the cell in the middle of the night in an apparent failed attempt to evade security cameras.[36] CCA fired the guard, but he never faced criminal prosecution by either state or federal authorities. According to an ICE spokesperson, the police investigation concluded that the sexual contact had been consensual.[37] In any Bureau of Prisons facility in the US, the same incident would have constituted a crime because federal law criminalizes sexual contact between guards and those in their custody.[38] However, at the time, that particular provision of the federal criminal code applied only to facilities under the authority of the Department of Justice. Immigration facilities had been under the authority of the DOJ until 2003, but then authority passed to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Consequently, the statutory provision did not cover sexual misconduct in ICE facilities at the time of the incident at Hutto. Later in 2007, a legislative amendment was passed to make the provision cover all federal facilities.[39]

The report also details alleged abuse at the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center,

The South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas has also been dogged by reports of sexual abuse of detainees.[40] In 2008, media outlets reported detainees attesting to frequent sexual abuse. One such report stated that documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request described an investigation into an alleged assault of a detainee from Mexico by a private security guard which led to his firing but did not result in prosecution.[41] According to the report, the documents also said that another detainee had reported multiple sexual assaults.[42]

And at Management and Training Corporation's Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville,

In the summer of 2009, the Women’s Refugee Commission received numerous reports of sexual assault at the Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville.[43] In at least one case, a lawsuit was filed by the victim, who was transferred to the Port Isabel center after the allegations were made. The allegations received by the Women’s Refugee Commission included not only assaults by guards on women, but also one alleged incident in which a guard locked a female detainee in a room with a male detainee to whom he “owed a favor,” so that he could rape her. These reports came from various sources, including former staff at the facility who wished to remain anonymous. These alleged incidents were reported to Dora Schriro in August of 2009 and she responded by immediately going to Willacy herself to investigate and conduct interviews.

Former CCA Supervisor arrestested in sexual assault cases at Hutto

A former Corrections Corporation of America supervisor at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor has been indicted on several counts of sexually assaulting women in his custody while the women were being transported to the facility.  According to the story in the Austin American Statesman (Isadora Vail, "Former supervisor charged in sexual assaults of detainees," August 20),

Williamson County officials have charged a resident supervisor at a Taylor immigrant detention facility in the sexual assaults of three female detainees who were being driven to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Donald Dunn, 30, was arrested and charged Thursday with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint.

He is accused of inappropriately touching several women as they were being taken from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to the airport. He remained in the Williamson County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $35,000.

The allegations were first reported to Austin police May 11 after one of the victims told an airport employee that Dunn had inappropriately touched her on the outside of her clothing, according to the Williamson County sheriff's office.

Sheriff's deputies interviewed Dunn on May 20, and he confirmed that the allegations were true, officials said. According to a news release from the sheriff's office, Dunn "explained to detectives that he told the women he was going to 'frisk' them and then inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks. Mr. Dunn advised that he didn't do this for safety concerns but as self gratification. Mr. Dunn indicated to detectives that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as a transport officer."

CCA has come under criticism for allowing male guards to transport female detainees without supervision, in violation of detention standards.  Williamson County is holding a press conference at 10am, so we're bound to see a flurry of news after that, and will keep updating the story.

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