Grassroots Leadership Blog

"All they did was change the name," Texas Sheriff exposes PEP-Comm deportation program

A Texas sheriff has blown the lid of the federal government's new deportation program, admitting that it's just like the disgraced "Secure Communities" program. 

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton has faced intense local pressure to opt out of S-Comm but has been vocal about his support for S-comm and working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in general. The sheriff and ICE have even been eager pen pals

So you can believe Sheriff Hamilton when he says that the "Priority Enforcement Program" or PEP-Comm, which is supposed to replace S-Comm, is just the same thing with a new name. 

Elected officials join advocates' call to end, not mend family detention

Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued a press release announcing a number of modifications to family detention. The announcement claims that the agency will do away with long-term detention in most cases and set “reasonable” bonds for families that pass credible fear examinations. Our take on this is expressed perfectly by our executive director, Bob Libal in Grassroots Leadership’s statement: “It is impossible to make family detention reasonable or humane. Mass family detention is an extremely recent development and is emblematic of our society’s rush to use incarceration as the solution to any difficult issue. The Administration ended mass family detention once in 2009, and they can and should end it again today.”                            Drawing by 8-year-old in family detention given to Rep.

                                                                                                                  Roybal-Allard on recent Congressional tour
 

An outpouring of legislators, advocacy organizations, and faith groups also released statements that these changes are not sufficient, and that the only solution is to end the inhumane detention of asylum seeking mothers and children altogether.

VIDEO: Survivor of Japanese incarceration during WWII takes us from Crystal City to Dilley

Dr. Satsuki Ina, a psychotherapist and professor emeritus at California State University — Sacramento was born in an incarceration camp in California, before moving with her mother to a camp in Crystal City, Texas. An advocate against family detention, Dr. Ina returned to Texas for a rally on May 2nd rally in Dilley, Texas. In this powerful video by Matthew Gossage, Dr. Ina visits Crystal City for the first time since childhood and talks about why detaining families is wrong.

A statement released by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) earlier this month condemned the U.S. Government’s practice of detaining asylum-seeking families

Securus Myth vs. Fact Analysis | PART 1

On a recent visit to the Securus Technology Website I found an interesting and new (to me) page. It appears that Securus is taking note of the advocacy efforts going on around them, compelling them to begin a public relations campaign to address concerns raised by critics of video visitation technology and their company in particular.  This is Part 1 of a blog series that will address some of their myths and facts. They have left too many things out of their equations.

 

Of course, this webpage is found when you click on the corrections portion of their website, not the friends and family section.  While the contracts that Securus acquires are with county and sheriff's offices, the real consumers, those who are paying for the product, are the ones this company  seems to care the least about.

A Tale of Two States: Washington and Vermont sign contracts to ship prisoners to Michigan

Two weeks ago we were disappointed to learn that both Washington state and Vermont awarded contracts to private prison corporation, GEO Group, to house overflow prisoners at the long-shuttered North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, MI.

This is concerning not only because of GEO’s particularly egregious history at the Baldwin private prison, but also because shipping prisoners out-of-state for profit is regressive and harmful criminal justice policy. It allows state leaders to ignore root causes of prison overcrowding and delay desperately needed sustainable reform. Shipping prisoners far away severs critical ties to family and community, compounding the already devastating effects of isolation felt by people who experience incarceration. It places enormous emotional and financial burdens on the families and loved ones of those shipped away. All the while, private prison corporations rake in profits for every prison bed they can fill. 

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act

As taxpayers we entrust the government to utilize our hard earned wages wisely.  Commonly, when we believe our tax dollars are misused, we exercise the rights afforded to us as a democratic society to hold those with power - lawmakers, leaders of agencies, etc. - to account.  One of the tools of our democracy’s accountability measures is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law that give us the right to access information from the federal government.  FOIA requests are often used to uncover corruption, scandals, mismanagement and other shortcomings in the functioning of our public systems.  

However, our ability to hold the government accountable becomes compromised when it outsources core functions, like incarceration, to private companies.  Currently, federal U.S. agencies (Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshalls) have outsourced the management of prison and immigrant detention facilities to private, for-profit companies like Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and MTC (Management and Training Corporation).  Private corporations are not subject to FOIA laws even though they assume the role of the federal government in the administration of U.S. federal carceral facilities and are compensated with public tax dollars.  This fact creates tremendous barriers to justice for those who are incarcerated in privately-run federal facilities because the people who are tasked with protecting their rights do not, in this moment, have the right to request information about what is happening inside of these facilities.  This lack of transparency contributes, in our opinion, to the rampant cases of mismanagement, neglect, and other types of prisoner abuse that we have tracked for decades in private facilities, such as those documented in our Dirty 30 report.  

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ACTION ALERT May 19, 2015 | We need you ASAP to protect jail visitation for Texas families!

May 19, 2015
 
The legislative process is long and layered and takes several rounds of engagement before a bill passes.  With your help we have gotten HB 549, a bill that protects the face-to-face visitation rights of people incarcerated at Texas county jails from being replaced with expensive, poor quality video chats, all the way to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.  In order for it to have a chance of passing, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee needs to hear from you TODAY.  (see more background here)
 
Please call and write the members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee ASAP and let them know you support protecting face-to-face visits at County Jails.  Consider reminding them that the Texas debate on the issue has gained national attention, and we have a perfect opportunity to set an important precedent for the rights of incarcerated people and their loved ones.  Below is a brief list of notable state and national media about visitation, video technology and county jails in Texas.  
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