“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

#FreeFelipe: DACA Recipient with Disability Bullied in Detention

Felipe Abonza-Lopez, a 20-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient with a medical disability, captured media attention in November after he was detained for over a month. The Huffington Post reported that Abonza-Lopez was arrested while riding in a car with undocumented family members after it was reported as a “suspicious vehicle” on October 12. Following his arrest, Abonza-Lopez was detained in South Texas Detention Complex operated by private prison corporation GEO Group in Pearsall, Texas.

The #FreeFelipe campaign lifted up Abonza-Lopez’s suffering in detention where he reported that was mocked by private prison staff for his prosthetic leg. He experienced pain in his leg and went to a medical clinic to ask for help. “The medical worker and a guard joked about his leg in English, acting as if he did not understand,” Huffington Post reported.

The article included a letter from Abonza-Lopez (below), which included the following details:

  • A GEO Group guard stated he could “put a broomstick in his leg and he can use [it to] sweep”

  • A clinic worker gave him a pill for leg pain and no other care

  • Abonza-Lopez fears bullying from the private prison staff, and worries that someone could steal his leg while he is asleep

“Please get me out of here. I do not deserve to be treated so inhumanely,” Abonza-Lopez wrote. He is among a rising number of DACA recipients who have been detained under the Trump administration.

“We know that ICE will try to detain and deport people who have DACA so long as no one is paying attention to it,” said Amy Fischer, policy director with RAICES. “There have been a handful of other instances in Texas of DACA holders being detained and then released after public pressure,” Fischer continued, pointing to the urgent need for protection of Dreamers and their parents at risk of detention and deportation.

Photo from Twitter

Blogging Categories: 

Immigrant prison in Texas making kids sick, Human Rights group calls for end to family detention

Image from Flickr

In a blog published on November 22, Human Rights First reported prevalent medical neglect in South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas operated by private prison corporation CoreCivic. The blog highlights the multiple medical issues that children and their parents experience with minimal access to services while in detention, as well as long-term health consequences to their incarceration.

Eleni Bakst spent a week visiting children and speaking with their parents in Dilley. “I learned that many of these children were also vomiting and experiencing diarrhea multiple times per day, had high fevers, and conjunctivitis,” she wrote. “Others had developed rashes as a result of drinking the tap water, which has reportedly been contaminated due to fracking in the area. Many local residents and visitors do not drink it.”

Bakst reported numerous women’s complaints about the negligent medical care in detention, including doctors “prescribing water instead of medicine” and “illogical and incorrect diagnoses” when patients came with illnesses. Women also reported their fear to report a complaint about the insufficient care in fear of negative consequences for their legal cases.

Bakst reported one story that exemplifies the unreasonable responses of medical professionals in detention:

“One mother told me her four-year-old daughter had lost eight pounds in detention over the last two to three weeks as a result of persistent vomiting and diarrhea, combined with high fever, rashes, and coughing. The clinician at the detention center diagnosed her vomiting as bulimia, claiming that this was common among young children at the center who are not accustomed to eating the type of food they provided. This girl’s mother, understandably taken aback by this diagnosis, did not return to the clinic, knowing that it would be futile.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a letter to the former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in 2015 stating that family detention of mothers and children “puts them at greater risk for physical and mental health problems and unnecessarily exposes children and mothers to additional psychological trauma.”

The recent actions of the Trump administration to terminate the Flores Settlement could open up the potential for long-term detention of families, making medical issues “more concerning than ever” from the conditions reported by Human Rights First.

Building on research from previous years, the report issued by Human Rights First in November 2015, “Family Detention Still Happening, Still Damaging,” features research on the experiences of women and children in detention. Their investigation highlighted the stories of 30 women in South Texas Family Residential Center detained with their families: “All of these mothers reported some combination of troubling symptoms, including high levels of hypervigilance, sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, and insomnia. A majority presented with symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, and Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia).”

Advocates have denounced family detention as an inhumane practice that profits from the violation of families’ rights. In Texas, a long legislative battle of 2016 led to advocates preventing the licensing of family detention centers as child care facilities. They have been criticized for violating federal law by holding families too long, among a number of other failures to provide adequate education, health care, and legal services.

For further information on medical neglect in South Texas Family Residential Center impacting pregnant women, see our blog from October 2017: “Pregnant Women Seeking Asylum Detained, Women Miscarried in ICE Facilities” and more Texas Prison Bid’ness coverage of Dilley.

Blogging Categories: 

Private detention industry booms with high cost for immigrant community

Image from Flickr

Following an increase in immigration enforcement across the country, NPR reported the resulting boon for the detention industry. The article named detention centers as “private immigrant jails” operated by private corporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic. NPR also reported that GEO Group is facing two class-action lawsuits for forced labor within detention, among a number of issues raised by immigrant rights advocacy groups.

The article interviewed Douglas Menjivar on his experience while detained at Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas operated by GEO Group:

“Menjivar says he was raped by gang members in his cell, and when he reported it to the medical staff they mocked him. ICE found the rape allegation to be unsubstantiated. His lawyer has filed a federal civil rights complaint.

Menjivar also says he was forced to work for a dollar a day.

‘Lots of things happened to me in Conroe,’ he says.”

The Trump administration reversed the Bureau of Prisons’ previous decision to end federal contracts with private companies to detain immigrants who had been convicted of crimes, leading to more revenue for GEO Group and CoreCivic and a bump in the companies’ stock prices. Advocates and human rights organizations have shown detention to be costly and ineffective. Further, according to NPR, “The Justice Department found these prisons fall short on safety and security, and are no cheaper than those run by the federal government.”

NPR reported that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested a 25% budget increase for detention to raise the total number of beds to 51,000, far exceeding the Congressionally mandated 34,000 immigrant detention bed quota. The request for increased detention capacity facilitates ICE’s plan to conduct widespread raids and arrests as "immigration agents under Trump have been much more aggressive” across the country.

Menjivar commented on the plan to build a second detention center in Conroe, Texas with 1,000 beds, costing $44 million per year to detain immigrants: "For me it's a bad idea. They're psychologically mistreating immigrants."

 

Willacy County Sells Prison to Management & Training Corporation in “Prisonville”

The Valley Morning Star reported the details of Willacy County’s sale of the former Willacy County Correctional Center to Management & Training Corporation (MTC) in Raymondville. According to details released on October 9, the sale for $2.025 million released the county of its $68 million debt to the prison’s bond holders. The 53-acre facility was originally developed by MTC as a detention center in 2006. The county bought the prison in 2011 to turn it to a minimum-security prison. The facility closed in 2015 following a riot and fire.

Management & Training Corporation is soliciting a new contract for the facility. Known previously as Tent City for its windowless pods, “MTC removed 10 Kevlar-covered domes damaged in the February 2015 riot that led to the 3,000-bed prison’s closure.”

Raymondville has been known as “Prisonville” for its three prison and detention facilities, now all privately owned. The town suffered tremendous financial impacts following the closure of the prison. “The closure of the prison, which paid the county for every inmate it held, led to 400 employee layoffs, slashing a third of the county’s $8.1 million general fund budget and plunging the area into financial crisis,” the Valley Morning Star reported.

Check out our previous coverage of MTC's scandals in Raymondville:

Pages

Subscribe to Texas Prison Bid'ness RSS