Argyle, Texas-based private prison development firm CorPlan has brought its much-rejected private detention center proposal to Italy, Texas - a small community just south of Waxahachi and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, according to the Italy Neotribune ("Italy City Council hears proposal for commercial development," May 18),
"James Parkey along with associates Kent Bratcher and Gary McKibben of James Parkey Associates presented their proposal of a detention center for illegal immigrants for all nationalities to be built in Italy. They would like to put it on fifty acres. He stated the building would look like a school. There would be no guard houses, no guard dogs, but would be a gorilla proof facility with a fence. The facility would only be used as a processing center and would be designed to current building codes.
Parkey explained it would be a five hundred bed facility and would provide approximately one hundred and fifty jobs. The hired employees would be put through training and at the end of their training they would be a licensed correction officer."
Parkey and his associates have traveled across the southwest pitching supposed "family immigrant detention centers." Last month, a CorPlan proposal met blistering criticism in Globe, Arizona ("Revisiting Globe's prison proposal: Companies behind project have a questionable past," Arizona Silver Belt, June 9th) including in an attempt to persuade the city of Weslaco to finance such a facility with the help of State Representative Eddie Lucio, III. According to Forrest Wilder's coverage at the Texas Observer ("For the Lucios, Private Prison Consulting is a Family Affair," April 23),
"In recent years, Corplan has been at the center of numerous controversies, including a bizarre prison-building scheme in Hardin, Montana that involved a private military force called American Police Force run by an ex-con. The prison cost the small town $27 million but never housed any prisoners.
In one of his latest gambits, Parkey has approached city officials in several towns across the U.S. – Benson, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Weslaco, Texas – with a proposal to build a new detention center for immigrant families. Parkey’s reputation, however, has caught up with him in Las Cruces and Benson, where officials have nixed the deal."
One of the many problems with this supposed family detention center was that ICE is no longer soliciting family detention centers from contractors. Even so, a prison developer could be paid up front if a community were to build such a facility on speculation of a contract, regardless of the success of the project. Thus far, we have seen no media coverage outside the NeoTribune of Italy proposal, but we'll continue to monitor the situation and let you know the developments.
Several civil and immigrant rights organizations have issued condemnations of the reported sexual abuse of female detainees at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. The ACLU of Texas issued a statement that included the following:
“The continued occurrence of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities demonstrates the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively in implementing reforms like improving detention standards, strengthening federal oversight of private providers like GEO and CCA, or better yet, eliminating the use of contract providers altogether,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas.
In recent years guards have been accused of assaults of women at a number of immigrant detention facilities in Texas. Also at Hutto, another CCA guard was fired in May 2007 after he was discovered having sex with a detainee in her cell. In 2008, a guard employed by another private prison provider, GEO, at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall reportedly impregnated at least one detainee. Most recently, in April 2010, a guard at the Port Isabel Detention Facility in Los Fresnos, Texas was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting female detainees being kept in medical isolation.
The National Immigrant Justice Center of the Heartland Alliance also issued a statement that included this passage:
“How many more lives are ICE and President Obama willing to put at risk before taking meaningful steps to end human rights abuses in the immigration detention system?” responded Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. “Women – we do not even know how many – have now suffered the trauma of sexual assault because of the failure of ICE leadership to respect the human dignity of those in its custody and implement meaningful reform.”
And Grassroots Leadership, my organization, issued a statement (PDF) today that included this,
“These reports show the vulnerability of detained immigrants, especially women, in ICE’s vast and largely private immigrant detention system,” said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. “ICE should immediately re-evaluate its contracts with all private prison corporations, and speed the pace of reforms to its system. We are gravely concerned about the reality of women incarcerated for-profit and the impact of these closed corporate facilities on the lives, health and well being of women detainees.”
ICE’s release of information about the reported abuse before a holiday weekend also drew criticism. “ICE has touted its move towards transparency and accountability,” Libal said. “Releasing this report on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend and just hours after meeting with senior administration officials and key detention advocates at the White House is anything but transparent and accountable.”
We'll keep you posted on what is sure to be an ongoing story in the fallout of this scandal.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement yesterday that it is investigating Corrections Corporation of America for repeated incidents of sexual assault against female detainees at the company's T. Don Hutto detention center. According to the AP story ("ICE investigating alleged sex assault of detainees," May 28) by Suzanne Gamboa,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating allegations that a guard at a central Texas detention facility sexually assaulted female detainees on their way to being deported.
Agency spokesman Brian Hale said Friday the guard has been fired and Corrections Corporation of America, which manages the prison, is on probation pending the investigation's outcome.
Several women who were held at T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas, were groped while being patted down and at least one was propositioned for sex, ICE said.
"We understand that this employee was able to commit these alleged crimes because ICE-mandated transport policies and procedures were not followed," David Sanders, the Homeland Security Department's contracting officer said in a letter to Corrections Corporation of America obtained by The Associated Press.
ICE has ordered Corrections Corporation of America to make changes, including not allowing male guards to be alone with female detainees.
There are many questions still to be answered about this deeply troubling incident. As readers of the blog will remember, Hutto was the site of another sexual misconduct case in 2007. We will be following up on this story with much more over the next few days.
The Brownsville Herald ("10 guards suing Management & Training Corp," May 21) reported last week that guards are suing the Management and Training Corporation for wrongful termination. According to the Herald story,
Ten former security guards at Willacy County Regional Detention Facility have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, and two company officials claiming they were fired for refusing to make false statements.
Peter Zavaletta, the attorney for 10 of the 11 guards who were fired, said his clients lost their jobs for refusing to sign statements saying other guards were gambling while on duty.
"None of my clients were gambling and when they refused to sign statements accusing each other of gambling, they were terminated," he said.
Zavaletta said he doesn’t know who the 11th guard is or who his attorney is, but was told by MTC there is an 11th guard who was fired. None of the guards had ever been disciplined and several had been promoted to supervisory positions at the privately owned and operated prison, the lawsuit states.
The Willacy County Regional Detention Facility is one of two large MTC prisons in Raymondville. The other, the Willacy County Processing Center, labeled by the press "Tent City" after being built of a series of Kevlar pods, is the nation's largest and one of its most notorious immigrant detention centers. "Tent City" has come been protested many times by immigrant, faith, and human rights organizations.
We'll keep you posted on developments from this lawsuit.