Jul 29, 2015
Texas Observer

Groups Urge DOJ to Stop Prosecuting Immigrants for Illegal Entry

"A national bipartisan movement to reduce the United States’ outsized prison population is gaining momentum, but immigration reform advocates say an important piece is still missing from the reform conversation: Thousands of men and women are being incarcerated every year because they entered the U.S. without documents.


On Tuesday, more than 170 organizations representing criminal justice, immigration reform and faith-based groups sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Department of Justice to end prosecutions for illegal entry and re-entry.

Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin immigrant advocacy group, said it’s time for the DOJ to reconsider its overzealous prosecution of undocumented immigrants. 'There’s a conversation going on about how to reduce mass incarceration, but at the same time you have leaders talking about mandatory minimums for people coming back into the country for basically petty immigration offenses,' he told the Observer." [node:read-more:link]

Jul 28, 2015

171 organizations call on Loretta Lynch to stop locking up deportees

"While Bill O’Reilly uses the tragic shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinleto call for harsher sentences for deportees who have returned U.S., 171 groups are calling for the Department of Justice to stop prosecuting the charge of “illegal reentry” altogether.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and National Council of La Raza argued that “these prosecutions further none of DOJ’s own prosecutorial priorities—national security, violent crime, financial fraud, and cases that protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Fusion investigation found that more than 23,000 immigrants a night are locked up in an immigrant prison system which has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the private prison industry. Fusion found that many government officials who were in charge when the shadow prison system was built now have lucrative posts within the private prison industry. The ACLU says the immigrant prisons are squalid, rife with abuse, and use solitary confinement in excess.

“There’s broad consensus that this is the worst thing you could do. It’s a huge step backwards,” said Bob Libal, the Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, one of the 171 organizations to sign the letter to the DOJ in reference to the Kate’s Law proposal.

'Prosecuting these cases has been enormously wasteful in terms of taxpayer dollars and people’s lives.'" [node:read-more:link]

Strange Bedfellows | For-Profit Prisons and Re-Entry Initiatives

This week the Travis County Sheriff’s Office is hosting the inaugural “Vision Summit: Looking Toward the Future of Re-entry”, right here in Grassroots Leadership’s backyard in Austin, Texas.  The gathering’s intention of bringing together the re-entry advocacy and service delivery community in order to better collaborate and communicate toward the goals of reducing recidivism and improving re-entry programs is one we appreciate.  It acknowledges the need, both locally and nationally, for reforms that effectively shift people out of confinement and back into society, and across the country there is a growing number of innovative and creative solutions doing just that.  The Vision Summit is a promising convening where the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas and experience will enhance the growing trends in rehabilitation and re-entry.


However, we question the Vision Summit’s wisdom in inviting private prison corporation GEO Group representatives to deliver a workshop on evidence-based practice and re-entry.  Surely the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and its conference partners are well aware of the presence of private prisons and mental health facilities operated by private prison companies in Texas.  Not only is there a private facility in virtually every corner of this state, but there have also been highly publicized scandals at several of them, including those operated by GEO Group, whose reputation in Texas has been littered with repeated escapes, contraband smuggling by guards, abuse, neglect, and even death.  The company’s national rap sheet reveals more of the same.


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