Posts Tagged ‘immigration’
Wildrick Guerrier, 34, has apparently died of cholera in a Haitian jail. Guerrier was among the 27 Haitians deported by the U.S. on January 20 despite the fact that Haiti has a massive ongoing cholera epidemic. He had lived in the United States since he was 16 as a Legal Permanent Resident, and was completing an 18-month criminal sentence when he was transferred to ICE detention and ordered deported in November 2010. (CORRECTION: I should note that it’s not been confirmed that Guerrier had cholera; his symptoms were extreme vomiting and diarrhea. So he could also have died of simple gastrointestinal distress that went untreated in the chaotic conditions of the Haitian jails.)
Advocacy groups have been begging ICE that it’s still too dangerous to deport anyone to Haiti; the U.S. has yet to even respond to their emergency petition. Now we know of at least one casualty of ICE’s insistence on continuing with “business as usual” even if it means deporting people into a country where they are likely to be thrown into a festering, cholera-ridden, overcrowded jail.
About a week ago, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights issued a press release accusing the U.S. of “deportations to a death trap.” Now it seems their accusations were all too well founded:
In December, ICE detained more than 300 Haitians. Many were then transferred to three remote jails in Louisiana – far from their families, attorneys and supporters. Most had served their criminal sentences and, prior to this round-up, had been released from ICE detention. Some have serious medical conditions. Most have U.S. relatives who are legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens who will be hurt by their loss.
The routine practice of the Haitian government is to jail deportees with criminal histories under conditions widely documented as atrocious and inhumane. Prisoners are not fed or provided medical care. Whether or not they have served a criminal sentence, no Haitian should be sent to a cholera-infested jail where they risk death. For its part, Haiti does not need United States to send it more people to feed and shelter.
That’s the headline of this Campus Progress report (h/t: Adam Serwer). Immigration detention generally happens in private prisons run by the Corrections Corporation of America or county jails that contract with ICE. LGBT detainees are especially at risk:
And at the San Pedro Service Processing Center in California, a guard forced a transgender woman to repeatedly perform oral sex on him while she waited for her attorney in a holding cell. Even after she reported the incident, the staff took so long arranging for evidence collection that she was forced to wait overnight to wash out her mouth.
Violence against LGBT detainees, in particular, is a growing problem, as they are especially vulnerable within the detention system. In addition to being singled out for harassment as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, transgender women often face the added risk. They are often housed with male detainees and supervised by male guards. Under those conditions, transgender women are even more susceptible to violence than those held in women-only facilities. …
Unfortunately, efforts to safeguard this particularly vulnerable population have proven distinctly harmful as well. For instance, when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted site visits of seven Southwest detention centers last year, they were troubled to find that some facilities attempted to protect LGBT detainees by keeping them in solitary confinement—a harshly punitive measure often used in prisons to discipline disobedient criminal inmates.
The ACLU of Southern California, which has long been involved in litigation over conditions in the Los Angeles County Jail, filed a motion earlier this week in federal court seeking a protective order for inmates who report grievances. The motion alleges a pattern of violent retaliation by prison guards against these inmates, ranging from beatings and stompings to broken bones.
L.A. sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore says the ACLU is exaggerating:
“What the ACLU is characterizing does not occur in men’s central jail,” Whitmore said. “The judge that oversees it toured the jail recently without condemnation.”
Whitmore said “regrettably from time to time there are physical altercations,” but added that every use of force is thoroughly investigated and said the Office of Independent Review, which monitors the department, called the jail system the most transparent in the nation.
The L.A. County jail system is the largest in the nation, with some 20,000 inmates. Men’s Central Jail, which is the facility at issue in the protective order motion, holds about 4,500 men, of which about 80% are pretrial detainees. Last week two inmates committed suicide in the facility.
Related news: L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca is calling for an expansion of the ICE Secure Communities program.
Deportation Nation, which produces original reporting on ICE’s Secure Communities program, is collecting stories about people’s experiences in immigration detention. You can listen to stories or share your own at this link. DN also provides a library of statistics and other primary sources about how Secure Communities works.
Meanwhile, DN currently has several stories worth reading about developments in counties’ ability to opt out of Secure Communities. Although there has been some confusion about whether counties can do this, federal officials recently confirmed that it is possible and outlined the process for doing so. Already, California’s San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and Virginia’s Arlington County have voted to do so.
Secure Communities is an ICE initiative to partner with local jails to cross-check arrest data with immigration status, allowing ICE officials to begin deportation proceedings if there is a match. The program has been promoted as a way to identify “truly dangerous people” (those words are from Rep. David Price, D-NC), and ICE hopes to expand it to all of the nation’s county jails by 2013. However, as DN notes,
the vast majority of immigrants deported through Secure Communities committed low-level offenses like trespassing, disorderly conduct and traffic offenses. Others simply face charges and have yet to be convicted.
A few weeks ago, I posted the always-shocking data on the rise of mass incarceration in the United States over the past 30 years. That data, however, is just the most visible way of measuring the rise of the American carceral state. And in turn, dismantling mass incarceration will require more than simply reducing the jail and prison population—which is merely a symptom of a deeper phenomenon.
What I mean is this: Mass incarceration is not just about the number of people actually behind bars. It’s also about a cultural mindset that turns to the criminal justice system—either literally or as a model—as the first response to almost any problem or disruption, even something so minor as a schoolchild’s misbehavior. In his book Governing through Crime (Oxford, 2007), Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon argues that over the past 40 years, our society has reconceptualized virtually every social problem—extreme poverty, educational inequality, mental illness, undocumented migration, etc.—through the lens of crime, creating a culture of fear in which every citizen is defined first and foremost as a victim.
At the same time, this culture also defines certain members of our society as criminals—everywhere they go. As sociologist Victor Rios puts it, in a 2006 article,*
one of the most brutal yet unexamined collateral consequences of punitive criminal justice policies and mass imprisonment is that of the non-criminal justice institution being penetrated and influenced by the detrimental effects of the criminal justice system. Youth of color are hypercriminalized because they encounter criminalization in all the settings they navigate.
Rios found, in his interviews with black and Latino teenage boys in the San Francisco Bay Area, that many experienced their daily lives almost as if they were in jail — so pervasive has become the criminal justice system’s reach into schools, community centers, and even families. He gives the example of “Jr.”: Read the rest of this entry »
The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has handed Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., an ultimatum: Cooperate with the division’s ongoing investigation into his office’s treatment of immigrants, or face a federal lawsuit. Sheriff Arpaio has previously announced his refusal to cooperate in the investigation, and his office has denied the DOJ access to its facilities, personnel, and requested documents. Among the practices being investigated, as summarized by the Seattle Times:
Arpaio’s office has conducted 17 sweeps in which deputies and “posse” volunteers, focusing on heavily Latino neighborhoods, stop people for sometimes minor violations, such as jaywalking, and then check their immigration status. Prisoners are fed twice a day, sleep in tents with no air conditioning and are issued striped prison uniforms and pink underwear and socks.
MCSO’s refusal to cooperate fully with the Division’s investigation makes it an extreme outlier when compared with other recipients of federal financial assistance… Although we would prefer voluntary compliance in this case as well, we will not hesitate to commence litigation on August 17, 2010…
Sometimes journalists who cover jails, prisons, immigration detention centers, etc. spice up their ledes by making some imagined comparison to hotel amenities. In fairness, their sources who are also fond of the comparison (see, e.g., this post). Anyway, here’s an example from today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
New menus. Redesigned living areas. Bingo nights. Dance classes. Continental breakfasts. Self-serve beverage bars.
These aren’t features of some swanky new hotel. They are among a host of new amenities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering at two immigration detention facilities in Georgia.
I would really like to see a moratorium on this trope. It’s somewhat offensive and virtually always inaccurate. This article refers to eight private immigration jails run by Corrections Corporation of America that are due to be redesigned. Whatever the new amenities after the renovations, I can pretty much guarantee they will not resemble “swanky new hotels.” Hotels typically aren’t surrounded by concertina wire. And I’ve known some swanky people in my time and they do not typically build their travel itineraries around where they can get bingo and self-serve lemonade.
In The Nation this week, Sasha Abramsky asks: “Is This the End of the War on Crime?” Abramsky argues that the decline in violent crime in recent years, combined with the current fiscal crisis, has opened up ideological and political space for reform. Here are just a few of the many examples Abramsky recounts:
In Texas a $600 million prison-expansion plan was shelved in 2007 in favor of a $241 million plan expanding community-based drug and alcohol treatment services, after researchers convinced legislators that the latter would lower crime rates more than expanding the state’s penal infrastructure. …
In Kansas legislators approved a large investment in drug treatment programs and services for parolees designed to stop so many offenders from simply cycling back into prison after their release. The result was a drop in Kansas’s prison population significant enough to allow the state to close several facilities.
Michigan recently reformed its prisoner-release process to allow for shorter sentences … . The state closed eight prisons as a result and invested some of the $250 million savings expected to be generated over a five-year period in an expanded network of mental health and job training services, as well as drug treatment programs.
Since I can’t imagine any politician will ever announce that the war on crime is over — surrender not being an option and victory being difficult to define, if not imagine — I think the metaphor of detente may be a helpful way to frame the seeming thaw in the heated tough-on-crime rhetoric of decades past. And detente only goes so far; after decades of a war mindset, permanent disarmament is difficult to achieve, both practically and politically. Now that states have built such a massive carceral infrastructure, which many citizens have come to take for granted, how far can they really go in abandoning it? If the economic climate improves, or crime rates rise, will states simply remobilize? Notably, while state prison populations declined last year for the first time in decades, the federal prison population keeps rising. As Doug Berman points out, it’s not surprising that “that jurisdictions that generally have to balance their budgets saw a decline in incarceration in 2009, while the one jurisdiction that just prints money went in the other direction.” Read the rest of this entry »
This weekend, the American Constitution Society will hold its national convention in Washington, D.C. Almost all the panels could bear on prison/jail issues in some way, and certainly on broader concerns of criminal law, procedure, and punishment. That said, if you’re planning to attend and are especially interested in prison/jail issues, watch out for these panels:
Friday, June 18
- 2010 Census and Redistricting — perhaps the discussion will touch on prison-based gerrymandering?
- Access to Federal Courts after Iqbal and Twombly
- Immigration Reform: Congress and the States
Saturday, June 19
- Detainees and Justice: Military Commissions vs. Trials within the Federal Court System
- The Federal Role in Improving Indigent Criminal Defense
Although this blog focuses on conditions for people being detained as part of the criminal trial process, or who are serving a criminal sentence, the United States of course detains people for many other reasons. Among those people are the 300,000 men, women, and children in immigration detention, and the hundreds of War on Terror detainees who have been held at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Although these forms of executive detention often raise different legal questions than the criminal justice system, ultimately none of these issues are separable: they are all part of the same national conversation about liberty and security, and in that way they all inform each other.
So, I thought I would take a break from prison/jail news this morning, and highlight two recent articles about executive detention. (I’ll do this in two separate posts, so this is Part I.) First, immigration detention, which raises particularly salient human rights concerns not only because of the conditions of confinement in many of the facilities ICE uses, but also because it catches in its net so many families and even young children. In The Nation, Jacqueline Stevens has this commentary entitled “Broken ICE,” on America’s thoroughly broken system of immigration detention, focusing on one New York facility:
In January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that by February 26 it would be transferring roughly 250 detainees from the privately run Varick Detention Center in Manhattan to the Hudson correctional center in Kearny, New Jersey. About 12,000 people annually, mostly New Yorkers who would be held at the Varick center, will now be distributed to facilities outside the city. ICE claims it is making the transfer to provide “outdoor recreation space and visitation services,” but civil rights advocates paint a darker picture.
“We view this as a lose-lose situation,” says Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which, along with numerous other New York civil rights organizations, is disturbed that ICE is shifting people from one intolerable facility to another and not releasing them. The groups also worry that the move will deprive the Varick inmates of their free legal services.