While the congressional debate on immigration reform continues, the mass detention of immigrants across the U.S. has been largely ignored.
That's why members of Texans United for Families (TUFF) and Grassroots Leadership visited the Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas earlier this year. There, we found that the appalling conditions in the prison had remained the same since our last visit in July 2012.
And today, we are releasing our new report titled "The Top 10 Reasons Why the Polk Detention Center STILL Needs to be Closed." The link is at the end of this post.
(You can read our initial report on Polk published in November 2012 here.)
The findings of our new Polk report are consistent with those in last month's a nationwide study of immigrant detention centers “Expose and Close, One Year Later: The Absence of Accountability in Immigration Detention,” (pdf) by Detention Watch Network (DWN). Both reports document the current state of the immigration detention system, afflicted by deaths and suicides, subpar medical and mental healthcare, inedible food, and arbitrary restrictions on visitation and access to legal resources.
After the most recent visit, a man wrote to Grassroots Leadership. His letter said in part, "I believe that your visit had a positive outcome… Unfortunately, the cafeteria menus still the same. Edible but the portions are very small for a grown man. Come meal to meal. Especially in between the dinner meal at 5 p.m. to the breakfast meal at 4:30 a.m. My understand that this is a detention center and I am a detainee, not a prisoner. Therefore, we feel that we should be treated a little more humane…" [sic]
Among the new report’s findings:
- ICE continues to shirk its responsibility on medical and mental health care, exacerbation of serious mental illnesses, and worsening health conditions.
- Immigrants have been thrown into segregation and solitary confinement for “their own protection” (for example, LGBTQ immigrants and mentally ill immigrants).
- Immigrants are subject to lengthy periods between meals, small portions, and poor food quality.
"When we visited Polk a year ago, we were appalled at what we saw. Immigrant men detained at the facility were given no access to legal services or any program, very limited recreation, and languished as they were cramped in their cells with as many as 23 other men nearly all day long," said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. "Then we went back. We were dismayed to find that very little had changed in the year since we first visited. In fact, some things — such as access to recreation — had actually gotten worse."