Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Immigration inmates protest 'system steeped in failure, secrecy and alleged human rights abuses'

The Texas Tribune's Julian Aguilar has a must-read story regarding the battle over inmate conditions in immigrant detention centers. The story opens:

Inmates in a South Texas detention facility began a series of staggered hunger strikes in January, hoping for better conditions and fewer transfers, as advocates pleaded for the federal government to come through on failed promises to reform the immigrant-detention system. Those failings, they argue, prompted inmates at the facility, which sits less than 50 miles from Harlingen, to refuse food in protest of what they allege is mental and physical abuse, lack of medical care and near-nil access to legal resources.

The government said on Friday that only two prisoners remain on what it calls “voluntary fasting” at the Port Isabel Detention Center. But the inmates have staggered their fasts, advocates of detention reform say, so that someone fasting this week might be replaced next week by another protester. Advocates allege that hundreds of inmates have taken part since the strike's inception to protest a detention system steeped in failure, secrecy and alleged human rights abuses.

In an report released last year, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement acknowleged the need to overhaul the current detention management system, especially as it relates to medical care of its inmates, alternatives to detention programs and the process by which inmate records are maintained in case of a transfer. DHS and ICE have identified their shortcomings, says Silky Shah, the organizing and outreach coordinator for Detention Watch Network, a Washington, D.C. based advocacy group. But, she says, the government appears content to ignore the problems.

“It’s very clear that ICE doesn’t know what it’s doing,” she says. “The system is in crisis — it’s broken. They literally said they don’t have a risk-assessment tool. And they have no idea who they are holding. They don’t know who is inside.”

Read the whole thing.


Anonymous said...

Grits, what do you attribute to the fact nothing has been posted here?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know. Usually you could at least expect a bunch of immigrant bashing.

OTOH, immigration and law enforcement are separate beasts and most Grits posts are about the latter. I try to pay attention to immigration detention because I see it in the big picture as a major (perhaps the fastest growing) contributor to over-incarceration trends, but most cops, POs, lawyers, judges, inmate families, etc. who usually frequent this blog don't typically deal with the topic.

Plus, sad to say, the public doesn't generally care about prison or detention conditions except for juveniles, and even then not much. I'm not saying it's right, but it's true.