Grassroots Leadership In The News

Mar 6, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said after the meeting that she was pleasantly surprised by the vote.

'In the end, we got what we came for,' Kirby said. 'I think they heard us, I think they heard the very important stories from people who have been in the system … Del Valle is not the place for treatment, it’s not the place for care, and we are ready to get to work.'" Read more about Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

Mar 2, 2018
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Oxygen

Why the Private Prison Industry Is Winning This Presidency

"'I didn’t come here because I wanted to,' says Laura Monterrosa, an El Salvadoran detainee at the Texas immigration detention center, who reportedly remains suicidal after a female guard allegedly assaulted her for four months. Monterrosa came to the US after sustaining abuse in El Salvador for being gay. She was put in solitary confinement in Februarybecause the facility does not have separate rooms for 'segregation purposes.' Monterrosa is detained at the for-profit T. Don Hutto Detention Facility, a drive from Austin, Texas. Monterrosa, who has allegedly attempted suicide at least three times, was also reportedly denied therapy. She is not the first person to speak up about the conditions at T. Don Hutto." Read more about Why the Private Prison Industry Is Winning This Presidency

Mar 2, 2018
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Associated Press

Immigrant detainee who alleged abuse sues for release

"In a 10-page complaint filed in federal court in Austin late Friday, Laura Monterrosa’s attorneys alleged that a psychiatrist at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, near Austin, didn’t evaluate Monterrosa fully. Consequently, the attorneys assert Monterrosa isn’t being treated adequately for her diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder." Read more about Immigrant detainee who alleged abuse sues for release

Feb 27, 2018
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Splinter News

The Supreme Court's Ruling on Immigrant Detention Is a Huge Win for Private Prisons

"Two for-profit prison companies—the GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America) hold 72 percent of privately contracted immigration detention beds, according to a 2015 report from Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit whose mission is to shut down for-profit prison facilities. Both have seen their profits spike under Donald Trump’s presidency. And they could continue to benefit even more: Trump’s 2018 budget plan requested an increase in the number of available immigrant detention beds to over 48,000." Read more about The Supreme Court's Ruling on Immigrant Detention Is a Huge Win for Private Prisons

Feb 27, 2018
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Salon

Asylum seeker held by ICE says she was sexually abused, now faces retaliation

"Bethany Carson, an immigration policy researcher for Grassroots Leadership, told Salon that after Monterrosa wrote the letter, things got worse for her. Carson described an escalating series of tactics — especially the use of solitary confinement — that she believed were meant to intimidate Monterrosa into retracting her accusations against the guard, which Monterrosa hasn't done. Carson also says Monterrosa has been subjected to ongoing interactions with her alleged abuser, which has led to Monterrosa hiding in her room, refusing food and feeling afraid to walk around the facility for fear of confrontation.

In January, Carson said, Monterrosa 'called me and told me that she had taken over 50 pills, mostly pain medication.' Carson then described a series of intense phone calls with officials as she tried, from outside, to get help. Officials at the facility ultimately intervened to saved Monterrosa's life, Carson said." Read more about Asylum seeker held by ICE says she was sexually abused, now faces retaliation

Feb 27, 2018
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Mundo Hispánico

Liberan a Laura Monterrosa, la salvadoreña que reportó abuso sexual en centro de detención en Texas

"Representantes de Grassroots Leadership, hablaron en nombre de todas las mujeres que están detenidas en el centro Hutto, un total de 512, quienes según los ponentes, viven situaciones de abuso, violaciones a sus derechos y son explotadas laboralmente, y les exigen muchas horas de trabajo a cambio de una mínima remuneración económica." Read more about Liberan a Laura Monterrosa, la salvadoreña que reportó abuso sexual en centro de detención en Texas

Feb 26, 2018
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KURV

Congressmen Call On ICE To Investigate Sex Abuse In Its Detention Facilities

"More than 45 congressmen have signed a letter calling for an investigation into how ICE handles sexual assault reports in its detention centers.

The letter references the case of Laura Monterrosa, a detainee at the T. Don Hutto Center in Central Texas who claims she was sexually assaulted by a female guard.

The immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership is also accusing detention center employees of pressuring Monterrosa to recant her claims." Read more about Congressmen Call On ICE To Investigate Sex Abuse In Its Detention Facilities

Feb 26, 2018
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AP

US Reps: ICE Should Review Sexual Abuse Cases In Detention

"More than 40 congressmen have signed a letter calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate its handling of sexual assault reports in its detention facilities.

The letter released Monday is based on the case of Laura Monterrosa, a detainee at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Central Texas. The FBI is investigating her allegation that a female guard assaulted her.

U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett, both Democrats, wrote that they were concerned about the 'prevalence of reports of sexual assault and abuse' in Texas immigration facilities.

The advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which is working with Monterrosa, says detention center employees are pressuring her to recant her allegations. ICE says it 'fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.”' Read more about US Reps: ICE Should Review Sexual Abuse Cases In Detention

Feb 26, 2018
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Remezcla

These Harrowing Stories Shed Light on the Rampant Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers

"On January 12, Laura Monterrosa – an immigrant from El Salvador detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center – attempted to take her own life. Detained in May 2017, Laura reports that a guard began to sexually abuse her in June.

Following the rise of #MeToo – a hashtag victims of predatory behaviors have used to talk about their experiences – Monterrosa courageously came forward with her story. But days after she shed light on the harassment, ICE said her claims were 'unsubstantiated.' Not only was her story dismissed, but she also had to continue seeing her abuser. With no on putting an end to this, Laura took 51 pain pills, attempting to commit suicide.

After returning from the hospital, officials placed her in solitary confinement for 60 hours – an ICE order many believe is retaliatory. There’s also reports that the detention center used isolation as a way to get her to recant her story. In the weeks since her story went viral and put a bigger spotlight on the many ways immigration detention centers treat detainees as dispensable, she remains suicidal. Laura has not received the mental and physical attention she desperately needs.

People on the outside are fighting for her as she struggles on the inside. Grassroots Leadership provides crucial information about her case, and activists have come together to demand her prompt release." Read more about These Harrowing Stories Shed Light on the Rampant Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers

Feb 26, 2018
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Newsweek

Sexual Abuse Allegations At Texas Immigrant Detention Center Prompt Democrat Calls for Investigation

"After Monterrosa made public claims that she endured repeated sexual assault at T. Don Hutto Detention Facility, which is run by a for-profit prison company around 30 miles outside of Austin, she was scheduled for a disciplinary hearing for not eating for over a week. According to Grassroots Leadership, the organization advocating for Monterrosa, she'd stopped going to the cafeteria for fear of facing her alleged abuser there.

Before she could attend the hearing, however, she attempted suicide for the first time and was later placed in solitary confinement and barred from seeing her attorneys. Over the last month, activists say she's experienced an onslaught of retaliation tactics, culminating in 60 additional hours of solitary confinement, coercion to recant her accusations and two more suicide attempts." Read more about Sexual Abuse Allegations At Texas Immigrant Detention Center Prompt Democrat Calls for Investigation

Feb 26, 2018
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ShadowProof

Prison Contractor Blocks Austin Politician From Visiting Detained Immigrant Who Alleged Sexual Abuse by Guard

“If what ICE calls ‘medical care’ is 60 hours in solitary confinement in a tiny, freezing, smelly room in the booking area, that speaks for itself as to why Laura’s life is in danger as long as she remains detained,” said Bethany Carson, an immigration researcher and organizer at the immigrant rights group, Grassroots Leadership.

“To expect that a survivor of sexual abuse by a CoreCivic guard could trust psychologists and medical staff who wear the same uniform as her abuser is ludicrous, and their refusal of outside mental health care is a blatant violation of PREA. It’s clear that ICE will go to any extreme to cover up this abuse.”

According to Carson’s organization, Monterrosa’s health is at a “crisis level,” describing her as “frequently vomiting and unable to eat for several days.”

Grassroots Leadership staff called the police on February 18 after Monterrosa said she felt suicidal. The Taylor Police Department conducted a welfare check at the prison but told the group they have “no oversight over the care she receives” and “could not intercede to allow her to speak with an outside mental health professional.” Read more about Prison Contractor Blocks Austin Politician From Visiting Detained Immigrant Who Alleged Sexual Abuse by Guard

Feb 26, 2018
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The Patch

Texas Congressmen Ask For Immigrant Detention Center Probe

"Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, an group advocating for immigrants, has long called attention to conditions at the Taylor detention center. More recently, they have risen awareness of the plight of Monterrosa, whose health has declined since being forced into solitary confinement after making her outcry that has prompted her to attempt suicide, advocates have reported." Read more about Texas Congressmen Ask For Immigrant Detention Center Probe

Feb 25, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon

"After a confusing bit of parliamentary gymnastics, City Council last week approved a pair of amendments directing the city manager to resume meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association, and also restoring most of the special pay provisions officers lost when union membership voted against extending the old contract back in December. Though police interests praised the action, the city's activist community left the meeting on Thursday feeling like Council had forgotten the voices that only two months ago called for a new approach to public safety spending. At the tail-end of talks, Grass­roots Leadership organizer Chris Harris summed up the afternoon: 'We're banging our heads against a wall.'

... Harris was more blunt, asking why Council would restore funding when union membership could've agreed to an extension in Dec­ember. 'Three weeks ago, Bryan Richter, the officer that brutalized Breaion King, was finally fired after another brutal arrest,' he said. 'This is a force that still employs Patrick Spradlin, the officer who made blatantly racist remarks to King in the back of the vehicle. Instead of restoring perks that they walked away from, we ask that you restore the oversight that was also lost when the police left the negotiation table and killed their own contract.'

Despite those arguments, council members expressed concern about the impacts on officers and ultimately approved both resolutions. Negotiators will be tasked with increasing field training and longevity in the next round of bargaining. APA President Ken Casaday expressed satisfaction in the results and indicated that the union will be ready to go back to the table as soon as Council gives them a date. As that happens, the activist coalition will continue its work on a plan to overhaul the oversight process with an independent complaint system. 'We'd like to see a chance for something like it to get off the ground and see what it can do,' Harris said. 'And then see how it could be strengthened, potentially, via contract or some other method.'" Read more about Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon

Feb 25, 2018
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The Patch

Austin Council Members Seek Access To Detained Immigrant

"The council members from Austin are requesting access to the detainee after a Feb. 20 attempt by Council Member Greg Casar to visit with the woman was rebuffed by CoreCivic officials who run the site. Reportedly, the detention center's operators expressed concerns Casar would later go to the media to describe what he might have seen at the facility, according to Grassroots Leadership advocates.

... Hearing of her hardship, the three council members now requesting to visit with Monterrosa also are demanding she be released — joining a cause Austin-based Grassroots Leadership has long taken on.

'To bar officials from entering a detention center because they represent the public, or because they may speak to the media about what they see, raises dire questions about freedom of speech and the transparency of these facilities,' the letter reads in part. 'We are deeply concerned that continued detention will be harmful for Ms. Monterrosa's health and call on you to release her immediately from detention."' Read more about Austin Council Members Seek Access To Detained Immigrant

Feb 23, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Austin council members request visit with woman in letter to ICE

"The council members also said in the letter that continued detention would be harmful to Monterrosa’s health.

Monterrosa has tried to kill herself and was placed in solitary confinement for 60 hours in early February because she was suicidal, according to the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Monterrosa also was told that if she didn’t recant her allegations of being sexually assaulted by a guard at the facility, she would be put back in solitary confinement, said Bethany Carson, a researcher for Grassroots Leadership.

The letter from the Austin City Council members asked ICE to release Monterrosa from the detention center and said an Austin nonprofit group is willing to support her." Read more about Austin council members request visit with woman in letter to ICE

Feb 23, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Lawsuit: Taylor facility forces detainees to work for little or no pay

"A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday argues that a company that manages immigrant detention centers — including the T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor — is violating the federal Trafficking Victims and Protection Act by forcing labor on those in the center.

...The T. Don Hutto center has been in the spotlight recently after Austin-based activist group Grassroots Leadership said it received letters from three women accusing guards at the detention center of sexual misconduct. One of those women is Laura Monterrosa, who has said she was sexually assaulted by a female guard." Read more about Lawsuit: Taylor facility forces detainees to work for little or no pay

Feb 21, 2018
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Patriot Not Partisan

Suffering in Silence: Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers

"On Wednesday, Feb. 14, a group of about 50 people gathered outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, to protest the isolation of one Laura Monterrosa, a young asylum seeker who has been convicted of no crimes. Though her solitary confinement was temporary, her story is far from over, and it is part of a larger pattern of abuse and silencing to which activists are hoping to draw attention." Read more about Suffering in Silence: Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers

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