“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

Deaths in immigrant detention centers are on pace to double from last year

According to the Daily Beast, individuals locked up in immigrant detention facilities are on pace to die at a rate twice as high as last year.

The Daily Beast was able to obtain records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency that runs the sprawling immigrant detention system. Since the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year, which began in October of 2016, eight individuals have died in ICE custody. Most recently this includes Jean Jimenez-Joseph, who hung himself in his jail cell, and Atulkumar Babubhai Patel, who died of congestive heart failure.

According to the Daily Beast, the number of deaths (eight) in fiscal year 2017 is almost equal to the number in fiscal year 2016 (10), and is on track to double that number. All but one of the deaths this year took place in privately run facilities. Last year, all but two of the deaths occurred in private facilities.

Another issue is the possibilities of prisoners in these facilities committing suicide. Earlier this month, a woman detained at the Karnes Family Residential Center attempted suicide. In a low moment, she believed that her death would allow her children, who are also detained, to be released as they cannot be in the facility without a parent or guardian.

Sadly, deaths in detention centers are not a new issue. Many facilities operated by private companies see prisoner deaths, both in immigrant detention facilities and in privately run jails.  

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Private prison's scheme to license baby jails fails in Texas

Karnes County Civil Detention Center
A proposal written by a private prison company to license baby jails as child care facilities has failed, according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

The proposal was written to bypass a ruling by an Austin-area judge in a lawsuit filed by immigrant families saying Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) could not license the family detention centers as child care facilities. If the bills to license had passed, they would have resulted in the prolonged detention of families at two family detention centers in Texas —  the South Texas Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center. These facilities are operated by two private prison companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group respectively.

Dilley family detention camp

The passage of this law would have been a boon to private prison companies, as evident by these companies paying lobbyists $480,000 to advocate for their interests to the Texas legislature.

Representative John Raney, a Republican who authored the House version of the bill, even admitted that the legislation came directly from a GEO lobbyist.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

In a legislative session where racism and bigotry won most of the time, having this bill die was a welcome, positive result.

Two Reeves County Detention units to close down indefinitely

The Reeves County Detention is closing two of its units indefinitely, reports CBS 7.

 County Judge W.J. Bang stated in a release that Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the detention center will be closed after July 31. They will close following the loss of a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The contract, which was for 3,600 prisoners, was instead awarded to the GEO Group at their Big Spring units.

 There is a possibility that Unit 3 of the detention center could remain open for another year, as the county and BOP negotiate a bridge contract that would allow time for relocating prisoners.

 Over the years, the Reeves County Detention Center has been plagued by numerous prisoner deaths, riots, and other issues such as denying attorneys access and using solitary confinement to retaliate against prisoners. Most recently, the detention center canceled visiting hours after placing the facility on "precautionary lockdown."

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A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

 Following her suicide attempt, Hakimi woke up in the medical center at Karnes and was then taken to a nearby hospital. Staff from the detention center gave her medicine but did not give a reason as to what the medicine was or the purpose of it. Hakimi did not know what the medicine was, and RAICES is currently requesting her medical records.

 Dr. Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, has interviewed countless individuals in detention and documented the effects of detention on children. “This is what happens when people get desperate,” Zayas said. “This woman is suffering a mental health crisis. But we know where it’s coming from. We know what we can do to stop it.”

 Dr. Zayas is right. We know what we can do to stop it. We must end family detention.

 

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