Saturday, August 21, 2010

Grassroots Leadership

In Wake of Sexual Assault Arrest at Hutto, Grassroots Leadership Calls for Detention Reforms to Prioritize Release, not For-Profit Detention

For Immediate Release: August 20, 2010

Contact: Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487,

Austin, TX - Grassroots Leadership today called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make systematic changes to its detention system in the wake of the arrest of a former private prison guard on charges related to the sexual assault of women detained at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. The man, a former supervisor at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison, was charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint in the incidents in which he allegedly groped women in his custody transporting them to the airport or bus station.

The T. Don Hutto detention center is a private prison formerly contracted to detain immigrant families, including small children. Last August, in a victory for Grassroots Leadership and our allies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it would end family detention at Hutto as part of sweeping reforms to the detention system. The facility now detains women apprehended without children, many of whom are seeking asylum in the United States. Hutto is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest for-profit private prison corporation. ICE has held up Hutto as a model detention center.

"While we were heartened that the administration took on reforming the U.S. detention system a year ago, this egregious incident illustrates the inherent problems in a vast and growing immigration detention system with no meaningful oversight." said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership's Texas Campaigns Coordinator. "The Obama Administration should should immediately take steps to implement alternatives to detention and scale back its growing and out-of-control detention system."

The sexual abuse scandal is the latest in a series of such incidents at Texas detention centers. In 2007, a CCA employee was fired for inappropriate sexual contact with a female detainee who was held at the facility with her family. Earlier this year, a former Port Isabel Detention Center officer was sentenced to prison for sexual abuse of female detainees over a period of time in 2008. In 2008, an expose by the WOAI news station in San Antonio reported sexual abuse of female detainees at the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. Reports of sexual abuse against detainees have also plagued MTC's Willacy County Detention Center.

"These reports show the vulnerability of detained immigrants, especially women, in ICE's vast and largely privatized immigrant detention system," said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. "ICE should immediately re-evaluate its contracts with all private prison corporations, and speed the pace of reforms to its system. We are gravely concerned about the reality of women incarcerated for-profit and the impact of these closed corporate facilities on the lives, health and well being of women detainees."