Laura Monterrosa’s mental health dangerously declines in detention

February 19, 2018

“The only way I’m getting out of this place is in a coffin”

AUSTIN — Laura Monterrosa’s mental and physical health continue to decline dangerously after she was driven to attempt suicide inside detention in early January. Monterrosa has spent nearly 9 months in the T. Don Hutto Detention Center where she has spoken out about being sexually assaulted by a guard. Her mental health has continuously deteriorated under intimidation by officials at the detention center and she remains suicidal. Her physical health has also reached crisis level, and she has been frequently vomiting and unable to eat for several days.

Last night, Grassroots Leadership staff, who have been supporting Laura, called 911 after Monterrosa shared she was feeling suicidal, for the second time since her attempt occurred. The call was routed to the Taylor Police Department, who conducted a welfare check on Ms. Monterrosa but told Grassroots Leadership staff that they have no oversight over the care she receives inside the detention center, and could not intercede to allow her to speak with an outside mental health professional.

“In any other case, someone at this high of risk of suicide would have access to a mental health treatment facility where they could receive the care they need. Laura is being denied this care and no longer believes that it’s possible to get away from the threats and abuse by ICE and CoreCivic officials in any other way. We fear for her life every day she remains detained,” said Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership.

According to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), detained individuals who speak up about being sexually assaulted must be protected from retaliation and offered care by outside mental health professionals. Instead, Laura is facing arbitrary solitary confinement in the attempt to threaten her to recant her testimony of the abuse.

“This case has crossed all lines. After Hutto’s history of endemic sexual abuse it is beyond unacceptable that the facility has not undergone a single PREA audit to ensure compliance with the law and protection for women who speak up,” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “There has been no meaningful oversight in Laura’s case from either federal or local authorities.”

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.

Contact: 

Bethany Carson, bcarson@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111