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Prairieland Detention Center

New transgender unit in Texas detention center raises concerns

A new detention center in Texas that contains a separate unit for transgender inmates has activists concerned, reported Public Radio International.

The Praireland Detention Center, located in Alvarado Texas, is expected to hold about 700 migrants, with a separate pod for 36 transgender migrants as well. It is operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a private prison company that will run the detention center on a five-year contract. The city of Alvarado will then have a chance to extend the contract if they wish.

Activists are opposed to the new detention center because they fear poor treatment and abuse of transgender inmates in the pod. Activists reference the Santa Ana Jail in California, where transgender inmates did not receive their hormone therapy medication on time and dealt with delays dealing with the transfer of their medical records. There were also reports of sexual assaults in the form of unlawful and degrading strip searches, as well as guards telling the transgender inmates to “use their male voices” and to act more “like a male.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement in 2015 saying they are committed to upholding the health, safety, and welfare of all transgender inmates.

Those in favor of the new detention center say that it will create 200 jobs in Alvarado.

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Questions raised over new Alvarado immigrant detention center

A single new immigrant detention center south of Dallas has become the focal point of many issues facing immigrant detention centers, reported the Dallas News.

The new Praireland Detention Center, run by for-profit Emerald Correctional Management LLC, will hold up to 707 immigrants, which includes a special wing for three dozen transgender migrants.  Many activists are worried for the transgender migrant population, and hope that the new facility will have security provisions to keep transgender migrants safe from abuse and sexual assult. Nell Gaither, founder of Dallas-based Trans-Pride Initiative, said that a better solution would be alternative-to-detention programs, such as telephone monitoring or the use of ankle monitors. Although Gaither said that "our preference is that they not hold any trans or queer persons." 

In the midst of a presidential election and the public unsure which direction immigrant detention will go, the amount of beds filled at the facility could vary greatly. However, thathat will not impact the payment that Emerald receives. The contract Emerald has guarentees $89.25 per day for a minimum of 525 beds, regardless of if they are filled or not. “It is a guaranteed minimum revenue stream,” said Emerald CEO Steve Afeman. “Otherwise, how would you get a $60 million facility custom-built.” Though the Dept. of Homeland Security is reviewing whether private corporations should run immigration centers, CEO Afeman said he's doubtful contracts for immigrant detention centers are under threat. 

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Questions raised over trans pod at new Alvarado immigrant detention center

A single new immigrant detention center south of Dallas has become the focal point of many issues facing immigrant detention centers, reported the Dallas Morning News.

The new Praireland Detention Center, run by for-profit Emerald Correctional Management LLC, will hold up to 707 immigrants, which includes a special wing for three dozen transgender migrants.  Many activists are worried for the transgender migrant population, and hope that the new facility will have security provisions to keep transgender migrants safe from abuse and sexual assault. Nell Gaither, founder of Dallas-based Trans-Pride Initiative, said that a better solution would be alternative-to-detention programs, such as telephone monitoring or the use of ankle monitors. Although Gaither said that "our preference is that they not hold any trans or queer persons."

In the midst of a presidential election and the public unsure which direction immigrant detention will go, the amount of beds at the facility could change. However, that will not impact the payment that Emerald receives. The contract Emerald has guarantees $89.25 per day for a minimum of 525 beds, regardless of if they are filled or not. “It is a guaranteed minimum revenue stream,” said Emerald CEO Steve Afeman. “Otherwise, how would you get a $60 million facility custom-built.”

Though the Department of Homeland Security is currently reviewing its use of private prisons corporations, Emerald CEO Afeman said he's doubtful contracts for immigrant detention centers are under threat.

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Emerald Corrections to open new ICE detention center in Alvarado

Emerald Companies sold the city on the idea of floating debt to build the detention center.
In November, the 700-bed Prairieland Detention Center is scheduled to open in Alvarado, Texas, a remote town in Johnson County 40 mines southeast of Dallas. The facility will be operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private prison corporation that manages six other facilities and has faced allegations of mistreatment of detained immigrants and shady contracting practices at other facilities.

 

The detention center will include a 36-person unit specifically designated to detain transgender immigrants, a practice that LGBTQI advocates decry as inhumane because transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults while in custody. Olga Tomchin, a staff attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Fusion, “ICE has shown over and over again that they’re incapable of detaining trans people with even minimal levels of dignity or safety.”

In June 2015, as county officials were breaking ground for the new detention center in Alvarado, 35 U.S. Representatives sent a letter to to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging him to end the detention of LGBTQI individuals. An excerpt from the letter reads, “These individuals are extremely vulnerable to abuse, including sexual assault, while in custody, in particular, transgender women housed in men’s detention facilities.”

Prairieland will be the second facility with an ICE contract in Johnson County, where the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center also currently detains immigrants for the federal agency. According to the Cleburne Times Review, Commissioner Rick Bailey was concerned that the county should not rely on two ICE facilities given the volatility of immigration laws. “I am concerned about ICE going away,” Bailey said in a Johnson County Commissioners meeting in early 2015.

These concerns are not unfounded, as Emerald suddenly pulled out of a contract with LaSalle County for a detention center in Encinal, Texas in late 2014 after the facility’s population decreased. This left the county with $20 million in debt, and county officials scrambling to run the facility without the resources or corrections knowledge for the job.

Despite the risks and opposition from some local officials, as well as national LGBTQI and immigrant advocates, the county approved the contract and the facility is slated to open in November 2016.

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