Grassroots Leadership In The News

Mar 9, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

County Delays Funding for New Women’s Jail

"Five months of protesting by criminal justice organizations culminated Tuesday with activists and former inmates packing the Travis County Commissioners Courtroom to speak against a new women's jailbuilding that is expected to cost nearly $100 million. Despite the groups' concerns, most commissioners had seemed ready to approve $6.6 million for the facility's design and preconstruction. But in a last-minute turn of events, they voted to delay the funding for a year in order to improve the county's efforts of reducing incarceration.

'The vote today is exactly the outcome we wanted,' said Holly Kirby, director of criminal justice programs for Grassroots Leadership. 'The commissioners heard community voices and listened. They made the right call today, and we are excited to get to work on driving down the jail population and investing in a healthier and safer Travis County."' Read more about County Delays Funding for New Women’s Jail

Mar 7, 2018
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Austin Monitor

Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

"The Travis County Commissioners Court has shelved for a full year what was supposed to be the first installment of a $97 million plan to build a new housing unit for female inmates at the county’s jail complex in Del Valle.

The 3-1 vote came on Tuesday afternoon following lengthy and occasionally tearful testimony from criminal justice reform activists who uniformly decried the proposal to replace the existing women’s unit with a larger facility.

'We have heard you all say you want the same things that we do, that you want to see fewer people locked up, that you want community voices at the table,' Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at Grassroots Leadership, told the court before its members voted. “We need to see that you mean what you say.”' Read more about Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

Mar 7, 2018
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Community Impact News

Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

"Members of the community, however, felt that $6.2 million should be used for mental health services and diversion programs. Over 20 Travis County residents and local criminal justice leaders gave testimony Tuesday afternoon on the topic.

Criminal Justice Program Director with Grassroots Leadership Holly Kirby urged commissioners to halt the construction on the women’s facility asking that more research be done in creating and improving diversion programs and reducing the jail population.

'You have the power right now to show all of us and the rest of Travis County that you are committed to doing something about the mass incarceration crisis in our community before any dollars are spent on a new expanded jail,' Kirby said. 'Please vote no on a new women’s jail today and let us work with you for truly a healthier and safer Travis County.”' Read more about Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

Mar 6, 2018
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Patch

Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, celebrated the move after she and other criminal justice reform advocates testified for an hour prior to the vote. 

'The vote today is a huge victory for us,' Kirby said. 'The commissioners listened to the community and made the right choice. Ultimately, this is about what our community values: health, safety, and equity. The vote today opens the door for us to get to work on downsizing our jail and investing in community alternatives for a safer, healthier and more just Travis County."' Read more about Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

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

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