In the past four months, District Judge Michael Seiler of Montgomery County has been recused from hearing eight civil commitment cases due to allegations of bias. These eight cases accounted for half of the sixteen petitions in total made by defense attorneys to have him removed from proceedings. Read more about Texas’ Civil Commitment Program Stymied By Scandal Over Bias Allegations and Housing Crisis
Grassroots Leadership Blog
We are disappointed to learn that Denton is the newest Texas county to eliminate face-to-face visitation between those incarcerated at the county jail and their loved ones. Like Travis and Bastrop counties, Denton County is now forcing "visitors" to use a video visitation system provided by Dallas-based Securus Technologies which charges users up to $20 for 20 minute "visits." Consistent with reports from other counties, the system in Denton is sub-par. "It was very choppy and pixelated, and at times where it would cut off completely and say it's trying to reconnect us," said one user. Shame on Securus and Denton County for extorting those who are committed to mainting face-to-face ties with their loved ones by forcing them to pay for a system that doesn't work. If you're as angry as we are, we invite you to join us for a protest at Denton County Jail next Thursday, February 26th and to sign and share this petition to Denton County Commissioners demanding that they find a way to restore in-person visitation.
Just as we were about to pull our hair out learning of the news from Denton, our partners at the Prison Policy Initiative released this series of hilarious videos that shine a spotlight on the very complaints that we hear from those who have been forced to use video visitation services. We applaud and give thanks to those who can use humor to shed light on these disgraceful practices and feel hopeful that messages like the ones below are the keys to making the ills of video visitation something everyone can relate to.
Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Another Texas county removes face-to-face jail visits
Last week, counsel for plaintiffs in the Flores case filed a motion to enforce the Flores settlement in federal district court in Los Angeles. Read more about New litigation says family detention and "ice boxes" violate prior settlement on the treatment of kids in immigrant detention
Grassroots Leadership is ecstatic to welcome Lauren Johnson to our team! Lauren is our very first Criminal Justice Advocacy and Mobilization Fellow, a new initiative to create leadership experiences during the Texas legislative session for individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Lauren will be supporting the Criminal Justice team with our Texas Prison Closures and Video Visitation campaigns.
Lauren Johnson is a native Austinite and currently serves as a board member with Conspire Theatre. Conspire does theater and creative writing with women who have been impacted by incarceration. Lauren studied business communications with the University of Phoenix and is an active member of the X-Offenders Council, as well as the Travis County Reentry Planning Council. She is committed to being a voice for the people who don't know that they have one.
Lauren can be reached at LJohnson@GrassrootsLeadership.orgRead more about Welcome Lauren Johnson!
We can't wait to show you our new place
Mark your calendars for and plan to spend the evening partying with us! Stay tuned for the details on how to participate, in-person and virtually, in warming our new home and celebrating our organization's expanding work.
Read more about Save the Date! Warm our new home with us!
This week's Humpday Hall of Shame is written for us by guest blogger Jorge Renaud, policy analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coaliton
Words matter, as do the accolades we give to each other to recognize achievement and progress. Both must be grounded in an agreed-upon understanding of terms. Otherwise, we have a grotesquerie similar to the one achieved when Henry Kissinger – whose idea to deescalate the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia resulted in 40,000 deaths there – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
An entity named DallasHR saw fit to award its 2014 Human Resource Executive of the Year Award to Kate Lengvel, a vice president in Human Resources for Securus Technology. If your memory needs refreshing, Securus is the Dallas-area company that provides telephone and video services to a bunch of U.S. jails and prisons and also trumpets a product line called Satellite Tracking of People (STOP). This latest is reminiscent of a long-time Texas tradition whereby ranchers staple identifying markers to the ears of their cattle to keep accurate counts of their herds, and it’s pretty well indicative of what Securus does – dehumanize incarcerated individuals and their families, all for profit.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Human Resources laurels for Securus' inhumane corporate practices
Last week, we tuned in to watch Grassroots Leadership's own Bob Libal testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the monstrous U.S. immigrant detention system. He told the Commission that the system was too dependent on for-profit private prisons and that all types of human rights abuses fester in this massive system. Read more about ICYMI: Bob Libal tells the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights what's wrong with immigrant detention (video)
Today, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2014 awards for individual activism, organizational advocacy and excellence in news reporting related to the private prison industry. PCI opposes the privatization of correctional services, including the operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities by for-profit companies. Read more about Private Corrections Institute Announces Annual Awards for Activism, Advocacy and News Reporting Related to Private Prisons
The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal
Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.Read more about Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights