Sheriff's deportation program becomes campaign issue.
Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton isn't on this year's election ballot, but his department's unpopular participation in federal immigration policies has made him a constant target on the campaign trail. In fact, the controversial Secure Communities program – aka "S-Comm" – was the main topic of debate at a Feb. 22 candidates forum, sponsored by the Austin Coalition of Immigrant Rights and other like-minded organizations. Read more about County Candidates Vow to End S-Comm
Grassroots Leadership In The News
Sheriff's deportation program becomes campaign issue.
“Por no hablar inglés o una infracción de tránsito te pueden detener”, dice Alejandro Cáceres, Director Ejecutivo de la Coalición de Derechos de Inmigrantes en Austin, organización que junto a otras, como Grassroots Leadership, impulsan en Austin la campaña nacional “Ni Uno Más”, la cual pide el cese de las deportaciones.
Corrections Corporation of America exposed for fraudelently billing state taxpayers for thousands of staff hours
"What is unique about private prisons is that there is financial incentive to both continue mass incarceration policies and to cut corners wherever corners can be cut," said Bob Libal, executive director for Grassroots Leadership. Read more about What won't this private prison corporation do to turn a profit?
By Arjun Sethi & Holly Kirby of Grassroots Leadership
In total, more than 10,500 prisoners are being held in private out-of-state facilities, as far as 3,000 miles from home. Most of them did not have a say in the matter. They were simply uprooted without their consent, at the fiat of the state. The consequences for them are severe. Read more about Incarceration Across State Lines
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that works toward ending social and economic oppression in the United States, said that unfortunately Parra’s case is not uncommon. “This is obviously something that’s very impactful and I think very depressing in many ways, but I also think that there’s a glowing movement of people in Texas and around the country that says that this isn’t something that we want as Americans — that people are trying to do something to change this,” Libal said. “I think that’s the hopeful part of the story is that people who are impacted by these policies and other people are standing up and saying they don’t want this type of thing to continue.”
"Solomon, 22, is doing his time for an alleged assault committed in California — one of the four states in America that ships its inmates to private prisons in other states. (The other states are Vermont, Idaho, and Hawaii.) The nonprofit Grassroots Leadership recently released a report criticizing the practice as inhumane because it often separates prisoners from their families." Read more about California Mom Shocked After Her Prisoner Son was Secretly Transferred 800 Miles Away to Another State
"The group Grassroots Leadership — which is spearheading the effort to keep West Virginia's prisoners in West Virginia, and otherwise keeping tabs on the private prisons industry — offers these details:
- In 2012 and 2013, deadly riots broke out in a facility run by CCA under contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and in another facility run under contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons.
- CCA was assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial penalties from state auditors in Ohio for violations that included inadequate staffing, delays in medical treatment, and unacceptable living conditions inside the prison. CCA was also fined for placing a financial strain on the community, after the facility became so dangerous that it required the local political department to dispatch officers to maintain security.
- CCA was also found in contempt of a federal court for persistently under-staffing an Idaho prison and then lying about it, meaning that taxpayers were charged for hundreds of hours of staff time that CCA simply never delivered." Read more about Yes, West Virginia, a private prison transfer is a terrible idea
Christina Parker, the immigration project's coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, said the event, part of a national movement called Not One More, was aimed at influencing immigration policy across the country. Read more about Immigration Reform Activists Arrested During Protest
But here in Travis County, we can take steps to counter the tide of anti-immigrant and anti-family policies. As Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, says, "There are 19 immigrants who are deported every week in Travis County because of the Secure Communities program and we think that here in Travis County we are a progressive community and that doesn't line up with our values." Read more about Arrested Activists Call on Travis County to Implement Progressive Immigration Policy
"At ColorOfChange, the nation's predominant online civil rights organization, we want ties with private prisons to be cut everywhere. That's why we, in collaboration with Grassroots Leadership and other partners, are now calling on investors in private prison companies, board members, industry leaders and politicians to pull out their money or otherwise end their association with them. " Read more about Private Prisons: The Case for Divestment
"I've visited a bunch of dentention facilities in Texas, and that's by far the worst," said the opponent, Bob Libal, who directs the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership and visited the Polk County Adult Detention Center with other activists in 2012 and 2013. His allegations echo a 2012 report from the Detention Watch Network, a coalition including the ACLU and the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as Libal's group: "Inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, lack of access to legal services, absence of meaningful programming, and a willful neglect of those who are imprisoned there plague the Polk detention center." Read more about Chris Christie's Texas horror: Meet the scandalous prison company he's long promoted
Critics of privatized detention in the U.S. argue that by handing off so much responsbility to private contractors, the federal government now lacks the expertise to make needed reforms to the largest detention network in the world. "They've abdicated a lot of responsibility, because it's quicker and easier this way," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice advocacy group that campaigns against prison privatization. "The results is what's largely a captured agency. I don't see how [the immigration agency] makes major moves without consultation from the private prison corporations, and that's not an effective immigration policy." Read more about How Corporations Are Cashing In On The Worldwide Immigration Crackdown
Advocates with the Texas Civil Rights Project and Grassroots Leadership urged county commissioners on Tuesday to resume allowing in-person visits. Currently, only attorneys visiting the Travis County Correctional Complex can see inmates face-to-face. Read more about Activists 'alarmed' at Travis County ending face-to-face jail visits
“Every person in the Travis County jail is someone’s son or daughter. Many are married; many have young children. Their families are often desperate to see them, out of love and conscience. They should not carry the weight of an arbitrary tax, simply to line a contractor’s pockets, and they should be allowed to see their loved-ones in person.”-- Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about Civil rights groups: Video jail visits too costly, may be violating civil rights
End out-of-state prisoner transfers: “The findings of our report last month showed that there are more than 10,500 prisoners that are shipped across state lines to for-profit prisons from four sending states: Hawaii, California, Idaho and Vermont. In 2014, I’m hopeful that at least one of those states will end the practice of shipping prisoners out of state while developing common-sense ways to reduce prison overcrowding.” — Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said what is sold as a cheap, short-term solution often turns into an expensive quagmire. For-profit prisons have a terrible record for medical care and staffing, he said, with poorly trained guards. "They are very violent facilities with understaffing, scandals, lawsuits, mismanagement. The way that private prison corporations make a profit is they cut corners," Libal charged.
In June 2013, Grassroots Leadership, an organization working to end for-profit incarceration, released The Dirty Thirty, a report chronicling CCA's 30-year history of prisoner abuse, scandals, escapes, lawsuits and employee mistreatment.
In the report, prepared for an Austin-based nonprofit called Grassroots Leadership, Kirby concluded that interstate transfers of inmates, intended to relieve overcrowding in the originating states, ultimately does nothing to enhance the public good. The practice, she said, serves only the “interests of an industry that views prisoners as commodities and perpetuates our nation’s mass incarceration crisis.”
The Son Armado, Las Krudas y Kiko Villamizar Concert for Immigration Prisoners was held Sunday afternoon from outside of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor. It is a guarded, fenced-in, multi-purpose facility used to detain non-U.S. citizens awaiting the outcome of their immigration status. Texas United for Families, Grassroots Leadership, LULAC, Get Equal Texas, The Union, T. Don Hutto Visitation Program and a couple of student organizations from St. Edward’s University attended the event. Read more about Activists remember detained immigrants
Most recently, Charlotte-based Grassroots Leadership published a report, "Locked Up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry," which looked at four states - California, Hawaii, Vermont and Idaho - that house inmates in out-of-state Corrections Corporation of America prisons. "Nothing runs more contrary to the goals of public safety, rehabilitation, and justice than an industry that profits from keeping people caged," the report concludes.