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Laura Monterrosa Courageously Speaks Out Against Sexual Abuse in Hutto

Image from Grassroots Leadership

On November 9, 23-year-old Salvadoran asylum seeker Laura Monterrosa spoke out about the sexual abuse she has experienced since June while she has been detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, operated by private prison corporation CoreCivic (formerly called Corrections Corporation of America). The Independent reported on Monterrosa’s story on November 7 following advocacy by Grassroots Leadership.

In her letter, Laura writes how a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will:

“She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her. She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.”

Monterrosa spoke out publicly on November 9 following several media articles. Since then, she reports that she has experienced retaliation from within the detention center.  She remains  detained while her abuser continues to be employed at the facility by CoreCivic. “In this place, we don’t have rights, only duties," she said in a letter to Grassroots Leadership.

Two women joined Monterrosa in denouncing sexual abuse they experienced while detained at Hutto on November 22. One woman, ‘Ana,’ was transferred to another private detention center in Laredo after filing her formal complaint.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Rewire on November 22 that the agency conducted an investigation in collaboration with Williamson County, where Hutto is located, and found Monterrosa’s claims “unsubstantiated.” Williamson County has remained silent on the issue.

The T. Don Hutto Detention Center, which detains 512 women, nearly all of whom are seeking asylum, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before — one former guard served time for multiple assaults.

From 2010 to 2016, out of approximately 33,000 complaints of physical and sexual abuse filed across the country with the DHS Office of Inspector General, less than 1 percent were actually investigated according to the national detention visitation program CIVIC.

Former guard at Jack Harwell pleads guilty to improper sexual relationship with inmate

A former guard at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, Melissa Corona, has pled guilty to charges of sexual misconduct with one of the inmates. Ms. Corona was indicted in March 2014, after allegations that she began a relationship with a male inmate in 2013 by kissing him more than 10 times.

Ms. Corona was the fifth person to be arrested in 2013 after an investigation into improprieties between staff and inmates. Three other female guards were arrested on charges of sexual misconduct, and a male guard was charged with bringing contraband into the facility.

This is not the first investigation into sexual misconduct at the facility. In fact, Community Education Centers (CEC), the private corporation responsible for the maintenance and staffing of Jack Harwell, is currently facing a lawsuit alleging that the company was grossly negligent by failing to screen, hire, train and supervise its employees to maintain a secure and safe facility. In this case, the allegation is that prolonged sexual misconduct occured between a male guard and a female inmate from November 2012 to March 2013.

The Jack Harwell facility was run by CEC until June 2013, when LaSalle Corrections took over management. Although LaSalle may have won the contract from CEC, the small Louisiana based company doesn’t have a clean record either.

Troubles at the Jack Harwell center are not confined to those held on local charges, either. Until last year, the facility also had a contract to hold detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but was at the center of controversy and protests over substandard conditions for those federal detainees as well. ICE pulled their detainees from the facility shortly after news broke of the conditions. 

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