What the hell is going on inside the Hutto detention center?

A letter from inside a controversial detention center contains new reports of sexual assault and retaliation against women detained in an immigrant detention center near Austin. The T. Don Hutto detention center, which imprisons asylum-seeking women, has been at the center of sexual assault scandals before.  One former guard was even incarcerated for multiple assaults.

Now, a letter sent by L.M. (the woman’s initials) from inside the Hutto detention center describes her and others’ experiences of sexual assault and retaliation and names two guards as perpetrators. The facility in Taylor, Texas, is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the private prison company commonly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, (which prefers to be called by its new corporate identity “CoreCivic” to obscure their three-decades long history). Guards at the facility are employees of the private prison company.

The letter describes a pattern of sexual assault that L.M. has endured since June. She writes that a female guard forced her into sexual acts against her will. “She harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her, which I did not want, but I had to do what she wanted,” she described. “She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it, I don't remember dates because there are many. She worked in the recreation area and what she did with me she did with other residents.” [node:read-more:link]

Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?

For many who are incarcerated and detained, visitation is a lifeline to the community that awaits them in the free world.  The ability to see visitors, which is highly regulated in most carceral facilities, is so powerful that it is generally utilized as a tool to incentivize “good” behavior and compliance with the rules and the culture of prison.  Making visits to prisons, jails and detention centers can be arduous for family and friends who often travel long distances, draw on financial resources, and wait in long lines to connect with the people that they love and care about.  Peoples’ commitment to make these visits is an important public service for helping to ensure community ties and support networks when prisoners are released; factors well-known to have positive impacts on recidivism rates.     

We are appalled to learn of CCA’s recent humiliation of a female visitor, a regular, to one of their Tennessee facilities where she was forced by guards to expose her genitals to prove that she was menstruating.  According to a federal lawsuit filed this week, despite already being cleared through one security checkpoint and offering to relinquish the sanitary napkin that prompted the scrutiny, she was not free to leave the facility without being searched.


New Grassroots Leadership Report, Petition Call for Closure of Dawson State Jail

Today, Grassroots Leadership and a coalition of groups representing criminal justice, civil liberties, policy, and faith organizations released a report, detailing abuses at the privately-run Dawson State Jail in Dallas and outlining further rationale for closing the facility. The report is co-authored by Texas-based Grassroots Leadership and The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system.

"Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act"

We often use this blog to explore some of the terrible decisions made by policy makers, elected officials and private prison personnel. Today, however, we have something to celebrate in Florida.

Thanks to Representative Betty Reed (D-Hillsborough), House Bill 367, prohibiting the use of restraints (shackles) on incarcerated women in labor, delivery and recovery, passed in a 114 to 1 vote in the House.  Only Darryl Ervin Rouson  (D-St Petersburg) voted against the bill. Previously, Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and her colleagues passed the identical Senate bill, SB 524, in a unanimous decision.

When the bill becomes effective in July of this year, Florida will become the first southern state to ban the shackling of pregnant women in their third trimester and during childbirth.  That leaves thirty-five states across this country that allow the shackling of pregnant and birthing women.


On International Women's Day, What About the Women?

On International Women’s Day let us pause for a moment and think of the women incarcerated in this country. Approximately 113,000 women are incarcerated in state and federal facilities. There are, in the United States, approximately 381 prisons for women and 3,376 jails housing both men and women. [node:read-more:link]

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