Grassroots Leadership In The News

Nov 21, 2014
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Vice

Why Are Minorities Overrepresented in Private Prisons?

But private prisons often contractually exempt th​emselves from the financial burdens of medically expensive—which is to say older—inmates. It should come as no surprise, then, that according to the study, the "states in which the private versus public racial disparities are the most pronounced also happen to be the states in which the private versus-public age disparities are most salient."

"Race is basically a proxy for health, and therefore age," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice advocacy group opposed to the for-profit prison industry. "Private prisons pluck healthy folks and send people who are less healthy and therefore more expensive to incarcerate back to the public system."  Read more about Why Are Minorities Overrepresented in Private Prisons?

Nov 21, 2014
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The Texas Observer

Obama’s Immigration Reform: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A Priority Enforcement Program, aka PEP, replaces the controversial Secure Communities program—which encouraged local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law. It looks like under PEP, ICE detainers will be replaced by a notfication system among other things.

Cristina Parker, spokesperson for the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which helped lead the charge in Texas against the unpopular Secure Communities program, says that her organization and others who have fought against the program for years are celebrating its demise. S-COMM was the reason that many immigrants were deported for minor misdemeanors or traffic infractions.

Parker says they are pessimistic, however, about the new program and eagerly awaiting more details on how it will be implemented. “ICE doesn’t inspire confidence in how it follows directives. It’s a rogue agency. And this really sounds very similar to the first day of S-COMM,” she says. “That’s kind of where we’re at now but we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic.” Read more about Obama’s Immigration Reform: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Nov 19, 2014
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Arizona Daily Star

Report takes aim at 'treatment industrial complex'

A new study purports to show the expansion of private-prison firms into areas of medical and other treatment for incarcerated people.

The American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership and Southern Center for Human Rights released the report Tuesday titled "Treatment Industrial Complex: How for-profit Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain."

The report says many of the companies traditionally involved in operating for-profit prisons have begun to "profit from providing treatment-oriented programs and services."

The report says companies involved in the so-called "treatment industrial complex" have capitalized on state and federal efforts seeking alternatives to incarceration such as reforming sentencing laws and expanded parole possibilities.

Authors of the report noted the incarcerated population in the United States has grown more than 500 percent since the 1980's - to more than 2.2 million people behind bars. Read more about Report takes aim at 'treatment industrial complex'

Nov 17, 2014
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The Daily Texan

Protesters rally against Red McCombs' affiliation with immigration detention facility

"A group of protesters met with Thomas Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, on Monday to ask him to request the school’s namesake, Red McCombs, break his real estate firm’s lease that will pave the way for the construction of the biggest immigrant detention facility in the nation. 

The group of protestors, which included students, sought to speak with the dean about the business school’s position on the subject. Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership and one of the six protesters who spoke with Gilligan, said one of her main concerns was McCombs’ involvement with the facilities. 

'I think we all have a claim to UT as Texans, and we want to talk to him about our concerns,” Parker said. “It’s problematic for us that a man whose name is on the building is profiting from a modern day internment camp.'”  Read more about Protesters rally against Red McCombs' affiliation with immigration detention facility

Nov 13, 2014
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RH Reality Check

Asylum-Seeking Women and Children Are Treated Like Dangerous Criminals When They Arrive

"A private prison company could be making hundreds of dollars each day keeping 7-year-old Nayely Beltran under lock and key.

Instead, on one warm October morning, Nayely is zooming around a home in East Austin, Texas, showing off her new braids and handing out hugs to anyone who’ll take one. She’s finding a lot of takers at Posada Esperanza, a nonprofit shelter for immigrant moms and kids—currently about 20 people—who are seeking asylum in the United States." 

Read more to find out what Grassroots Leadership's Cristina Parker says about the return to family detention by the Obama Administration. Read more about Asylum-Seeking Women and Children Are Treated Like Dangerous Criminals When They Arrive

Nov 13, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Editorial: In-person visitation should be an option at Travis, Bastrop jails

Just last month, inmate advocates in Austin called on sheriff’s officials to restore in-person visitation at Travis County jails, saying the video chatting system is costly for prisoners and their families and has not improved security as promoted. The advocates pointed to a recent study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership that showed overall increase in disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband between May 2012 and April 2014 in the county jail. Advocates say the results indicate conditions have worsened for prisoners. The findings are contrary to what the sheriff’s office said would happen when it introduced the video system in May 2013. At the time, the sheriff’s office said the new system would be safer for inmates. Read more about Editorial: In-person visitation should be an option at Travis, Bastrop jails

Nov 7, 2014
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The Austin Chronicle

Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

"We're being careful to say there's not a direct correlation, but it certainly hasn't decreased violence," says Grassroots Lead­er­ship's Kymberlie Quong Charles, who argues that there's a necessary human, physical element in face-to-face interactions. "Even through Plexiglas, it allows you to see the color of [an inmate's] skin, or other physical things with their bodies," she adds. "It's an accountability thing, and lets people on the outside get some read on the physical condition of a loved one. If there are concerns, it gives people on the outside a tool." Read more about Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

Oct 28, 2014
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National Public Radio

How will a small town in Arizona manage an ICE facility in Texas?

The South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, TX sounds like it could be a pleasant apartment complex, but it's actually going to be a detention camp for female and child immigrants who have arrived from Central America.

Located next to a state prison and a man camp, the facility is currenty under construction, with workers quickly installing the modular buildings that will eventually hold 2,400 detainees, technically under the custody of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit prison corporation in the country, is contracted to run and maintain the facility. However, the contract is slightly unusual. While the facility is located in Dilley, the contract is going through the town of Eloy, Arizona—effectively bypassing the typically 18 month process that involves competitive bidding, environmental impact reports, and other safeguard measures before breaking ground on a new detention facility.

Immigrant rights advocates are worried about the contract for a multitude of reasons. Among other concerns, the immigrant detention center in Eloy has had the most detainee deaths in the country—13 since it was opened in 2004, says Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership.  Read more about How will a small town in Arizona manage an ICE facility in Texas?

Oct 27, 2014
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El Universal

For-profit family detention in the U.S.

The expansion of family detention facilities is expected to surpass 3,500 beds this year, including one 532-bed facility in Karnes City, Texas and another 2,400-bed facility planned in Dilley Texas, according to Detention Watch Network. 

Bob Libal, executive director of the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership, said: “While little kids and their families will suffer in remote private prisons, far away from legal or social services, these multi-billion dollar private prison companies stand to make enormous profits.” Read more about For-profit family detention in the U.S.

Oct 27, 2014
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El Universal

Familias, nuevo blanco de "la migra"

"Aunque en los últimos meses la atención se ha centrado en los niños inmigrantes que llegan a EU no acompañados, hay otro grupo de menores que cruza con alguno de sus padres, o los dos. Y a diferencia de los niños que viajan solos, que son transferidos a albergues y reinsertados en ambientes familiares a la brevedad, la administración de Barack Obama ha optado por poner bajo llave a los menjores que llegan acompañados por su familia mientras reciben sentencia en las cortes de inmigración, lo cual puede tomar meses.

En el reporte Detención de familias con fines de lucro, publicado hace unos días, la organización activista que trabaja contra el encarcelamiento como negocio privado Grassroots Leadership concluye que con el establecimiento de estos centros 'el presidente [Barack] Obama ha lanzado el proyecto de detención de familias más grande de EU desde los campos de concentración para japones [durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial]'." Read more about Familias, nuevo blanco de "la migra"

Oct 23, 2014
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CBS Houston

Video-Only Prison Visits A Profitable Replacement For Texas Jails

A report from Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition notes that personal visits improve jail security and lower recidivism rates. “Video-only visitation policies ignore best practices that call for face-to-face visits to foster family relationships,” the report argues. “They advance arguments about security that are dubious, not rooted in research, and may be counter-productive.” Read more about Video-Only Prison Visits A Profitable Replacement For Texas Jails

Oct 20, 2014
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Grits for Breakfast

Backlash brewing against video-only jail visitation

report released this morning by Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition found that disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband cases all increased within the year after the video-only policy was put in place. The report concedes that the trends may be an aberration or temporary but cites social science and long-standing prison policies holding that visitations improves jail security and lowers recidivism rates. Read more about Backlash brewing against video-only jail visitation

Oct 18, 2014
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Arizona Republic

Operation Streamline is costly (and it doesn't work)

The reason migration on the southern border is currently at its lowest point in over four decades is not Operation Streamline, but the economic downturn in the United States.

The costs of this ineffective program are staggering. According to a 2012 Grassroots Leadership report, since 2005, when Operation Streamline began, the federal government has spent an estimated $5.5 billion incarcerating undocumented immigrants in the criminal-justice system. Much of this money is funneled to private-prison corporations, the two largest of which are Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group. Read more about Operation Streamline is costly (and it doesn't work)

Oct 16, 2014
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Houston Matters

Are Privatized Prisons A Good Idea?

Earlier this month, allegations of sexual abuse surfaced at a South Texas detention center for mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The Karnes City facility is run by a private, for-profit operator based in Florida, which strongly denies the allegations. The claims come four months after the ACLU issued a report alleging thousands of non-citizens are subjected to abuse and dangerous conditions in privately-run federal prisons in Texas. The report described overcrowding, squalid conditions and insufficient medical care.

Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal weighs in on the Karnes Family Detention facility. Read more about Are Privatized Prisons A Good Idea?

Oct 16, 2014
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Texas Observer

A Dallas Company Finds Profit in Video-Only Jail Visitations

“We believe Securus sees Texas county jails as a really ripe market for them,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles, an organizer with the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership. Securus, she pointed out, is a major provider of phone services for jails and prisons, but the FCC is cracking down on what it considers exorbitant rates. Video visitation could offer a source of revenue at a time of sagging profits for the industry. Read more about A Dallas Company Finds Profit in Video-Only Jail Visitations

Oct 16, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Advocates want Travis County to bring back face-to-face jail visits

Members of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership have released a study pointing to an overall increase in disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband between May 2012 and April 2014. Advocates say the results indicate conditions have worsened for prisoners, though in announcing the launch of the video system in May 2013, the sheriff’s office said exclusive video visitation would better safety and security as deputies would no longer have to move inmates from one building to another for face-to-face visits and would be free for other duties. Read more about Advocates want Travis County to bring back face-to-face jail visits

Oct 15, 2014
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Austin American-Statesman

Despite criticism, Travis County sheriff stands by deportation program

In a dialogue on October 15th with Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal, Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition Executive Director Alejandro Caceres, and Texas Civil Rights Project Staff Attorney Amelia Fischer, Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton again defended his office’s participation in a federal program that helps deport immigrants arrested in Travis County. Read more about Despite criticism, Travis County sheriff stands by deportation program

Oct 13, 2014
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TWC News

Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

From Austin and San Antonio, close to one-hundred activists made the drive to Karnes County this weekend in protest of the more than 500 immigrants incarcerated inside the Karnes County Residential Center.

"When we as a country needed to open our arms and open our doors to people fleeing violence,” Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration projects coordinator, said. “Instead, we locked them up. We're putting them in this prison now."

Part of the group’s message at the weekend rally is directed at the prison's operator, private company Geo Group Incorporated.

"We know that this is a company back here that is making $298 per day, per child," Parker said.

Click here to read the full report prepared by Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Protesters Demand Closure of Immigration Facility

Oct 13, 2014
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Fusion

Undeterred by sex abuse scandal, feds push for more family detention centers

Privatization of any type of jail or prison should be concerning: incarcerations shouldn’t be driven by profits.

Immigration activists have taken a firm stance on this. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a North Carolina-based organization that wants to extricate private businesses from prison industry, said the new incursions into family detention by the Obama administration are both “incredibly shameful and entirely predictable.” After the failure of T. Don Hutto, he believes the government should end the effort to lock up families based on immigration status. “It’s almost mind-boggling that ICE would embark on this kind of detention regime,” he said. Read more about Undeterred by sex abuse scandal, feds push for more family detention centers

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