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UT Law professor sues over records related to CCA detention center

Hutto protester
Hutto protester
A University of Texas Law Professor has sued the federal government to get records related to bonds at an immigration detention center operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), according to a story by Jazmin Ulloa in the Austin American-Statesman last week.  Immigration Law Professor Denise Gilman has sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to gain access to records related to bonds at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  

The Hutto detention center has gained notoriety over the years, first when it was a controversial immigrant family detention center between 2006 and 2009 and more recently as the nation's only all-women's detention center, detaining mostly asylum-seeking women.  The facility was the site of hunger strikes last fall by women demanding to be released after prolonged detention.

According to the article:

"Gilman says she detected a pattern of federal officials setting 'across-the-board bonds,' regardless of whether detainees posed a threat of fleeing or a danger to the community, in order to extend their stay at the facility and thus meet a congressional mandate to maintain 34,000 immigration detention beds daily across the country. She wants all records related to the procedures and process that officials used to make their decisions on each woman’s individual case, according to the lawsuit filed in the Western District of Texas.

She first asked for the documents March 31, 2014, but by the time the agency had 'closed' her request a year and a half later, it had produced only an Excel spreadsheet with two columns of redacted information, the complaint states."

Private prison corporations have been under increased scrutiny for their role in upholding the nation's immigration detention bed quota, including with a report from Grassroots Leadership, my organization, last year that found that private prison corporations put a large percentage of their lobbying resources into the committee that maintains the quota.  We'll keep you posted on developments from the litigation.  

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Former CCA Supervisor arrestested in sexual assault cases at Hutto

A former Corrections Corporation of America supervisor at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor has been indicted on several counts of sexually assaulting women in his custody while the women were being transported to the facility.  According to the story in the Austin American Statesman (Isadora Vail, "Former supervisor charged in sexual assaults of detainees," August 20),

Williamson County officials have charged a resident supervisor at a Taylor immigrant detention facility in the sexual assaults of three female detainees who were being driven to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Donald Dunn, 30, was arrested and charged Thursday with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint.

He is accused of inappropriately touching several women as they were being taken from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to the airport. He remained in the Williamson County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $35,000.

The allegations were first reported to Austin police May 11 after one of the victims told an airport employee that Dunn had inappropriately touched her on the outside of her clothing, according to the Williamson County sheriff's office.

Sheriff's deputies interviewed Dunn on May 20, and he confirmed that the allegations were true, officials said. According to a news release from the sheriff's office, Dunn "explained to detectives that he told the women he was going to 'frisk' them and then inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks. Mr. Dunn advised that he didn't do this for safety concerns but as self gratification. Mr. Dunn indicated to detectives that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as a transport officer."

CCA has come under criticism for allowing male guards to transport female detainees without supervision, in violation of detention standards.  Williamson County is holding a press conference at 10am, so we're bound to see a flurry of news after that, and will keep updating the story.

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