Grassroots Leadership In The News

Aug 22, 2016
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AlterNet

There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons

The DOJ’s decision will impact 13 federal prisons run by private companies, or just over 22,000 incarcerated people. These people will be ostensibly shuffled to publicly-operated prisons, which is still a big problem for those who argue that mass incarceration itself is a profound injustice.

As the anti-prison-profiteering organization Grassroots Leadership explains, “Most privately-operated prisons within the BOP are Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. CAR prisons hold noncitizens, many of whom have been criminally prosecuted for crossing the border.” Bethany Carson, researcher and organizer for the group, said in a press statement, “We hope that this decision will be a stepping stone for the DOJ to end the use of segregated prisons for non-citizens and de-prioritize improper entry and re-entry prosecutions.” Read more about There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons

Aug 22, 2016
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Ahora Sí

Activistas denuncian nocivo traslado de inmigrantes detenidas en Texas

El traslado de más de medio centenar de inmigrantes indocumentadas recluidas en un centro de detención del centro de Texas a otro en Laredo está siendo severamente cuestionado por grupos pro inmigrantes de Austin.

Los activistas dicen que la medida, llevada a cabo el 27 de junio, afecta negativamente a las internas, la mayoría inmigrantes centroamericanas que buscan asilo político o que están apelando sus órdenes de deportación, ya que las aleja de sus familias y de un adecuado asesoramiento legal, lo cual puede derivar en que pierdan sus casos en las cortes, dijo Bethany Carson, investigadora de política migratoria de la organización Grassroots Leadership.

“Esto interrumpió muchos de los casos de asilo de las mujeres”, dijo Carson, quien agregó que muchas de ellas ya habían pasado una entrevista de miedo creíble, la cual es un primer paso muy importante para lograr obtener el asilo político en el país, un proceso que ha sido puesto en peligro por la acción que ordenó el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de los Estados Unidos (ICE).

“ICE debería estar liberándolas en lugar de estarlas transfiriendo a distintos centros de detención”, indicó Carson. Read more about Activistas denuncian nocivo traslado de inmigrantes detenidas en Texas

Aug 20, 2016
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Arizona Republic

Could for-profit immigrant detention centers, including in Arizona, be next on feds' hit list?

Plans by the Department of Justice to begin phasing out contracts with private prisons is fueling calls from immigrant advocates to also end the use of private immigration detention centers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has in recent years increasingly contracted with private for-profit companies to run a vast network of detention centers to hold immigrants, including the 1,550-bed Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County about 60 miles south of Phoenix.

Critics contend the use of for-profit companies to run immigration detention centers has fueled a trend to hold more people rather than use less expensive alternatives to detention.

"These companies have financial interest in making sure that these detention facilities are full," said Bob Libal,​ executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group based in Austin, Texas, that opposes private prisons. Read more about Could for-profit immigrant detention centers, including in Arizona, be next on feds' hit list?

Aug 19, 2016
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VT Digger

Suzi Wizowaty: DOJ makes right call on private prisons

By now you’ve heard the news: The U.S. Department of Justice will stop using private prisons. The price of stock in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies, plunged 25 percent within a few hours of the announcement Thursday. By the end of the day, the nonprofit group In the Public Interest listed CCA stock’s drop in value as 50 percent and GEO Group’s at 35 percent.

It’s wonderful news and may seem to come out of the blue. But it follows last week’s release of a report by the DOJ that reiterated what advocates have been documenting for years: Private prisons are both less safe and less effective than those run by the government.

Chief among those advocates is the Texas-based group, Grassroots Leadership, which over the past two years has also partnered with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform to highlight Vermont’s practice of shipping men out of state to private prisons. (In July 2015, Vermont’s “overflow” prisoners were moved from a CCA-owned prison in Kentucky to a GEO Group prison in Baldwin, Michigan.) Read more about Suzi Wizowaty: DOJ makes right call on private prisons

Aug 18, 2016
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Houston Public Media

DOJ Report: Privately Operated Prisons Less Safe For Inmates And Staff

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Justice has released a report on privately operated prisons that concludes these facilities, some of them located in Texas, have more safety and security incidents than those operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The DOJ looked at incidents that occurred between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2014 and OIG staff visited three private prisons that have contracts with the federal government.

Two of them are in Texas.

They are the Dalby Correctional Facility, which is in the northwest part of the state, and the Eden Detention Center, located about 50 miles east of San Angelo. Read more about DOJ Report: Privately Operated Prisons Less Safe For Inmates And Staff

Aug 18, 2016
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Vice

The federal shutdown of private prisons only affects a fraction of inmates

News that the federal government is rolling back its dealings with private prisons was a big enough deal on Thursday that it sent Corrections Corp stock plummeting within 60 seconds.

It's no small thing: the government's decision to decline or let expire contracts with the 13 private prisons across the country will affect about 40,000 inmates held inside, according to a 2014 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

But this move only affects a fraction of inmates locked up by the private sector: the same report shows over 91,000 are housed in state prisons, which will be untouched by the DOJ's decision. The BJS report does not include private county prisons.

Nor will the decision touch the private detention operations of the Immigration and and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, a bigger client to the private prison industry than the DOJ. ICE is under a mandate to hold 34,000 detainees at a time, and corporations oversee 62 percent of ICE's detention beds.

A damning report by the Inspector General a week ago found private inmates get worse treatment, fewer resources, and shabbier conditions than their counterparts in publicly-run prisons.

"I would still say this is an historic day and may mark a turning point," said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership, a civil rights group that studies and organizes to end private prisons.

"I hope it's one of many big days to come," he added. Read more about The federal shutdown of private prisons only affects a fraction of inmates

Jul 22, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Operation Misery a better name?

People who enter or re-enter U.S. borders without legal authorization do so mostly to better their families’ economic circumstances. Escaping misery should not be a crime.

But under a program launched 10 years ago, it has been effectively criminalized. The entirely predictable result has been a clogging of courts, an overpacking of federal jails, a wasteful expense estimated at $7 billion since 2005 and an unjust severing of families that imposes even more misery as breadwinners are imprisoned — for wanting to earn their bread.

This is laid out in a report by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies. A recent Express-News article by Aaron Nelsen explained its findings. Nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted since 2005 in federal courts, 412,240 for improper entry (a misdemeanor) and 317,916 for re-entry (a felony). Read more about Operation Misery a better name?

Jul 15, 2016
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Texas Public Radio

Texas Matters: Operation Streamline And Problems With The U.S. Immigration System

It was just over ten years ago that Operation Streamline debuted in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector – it’s since been expanded to all federal district courts along the border except for the southern border of California.

Operation Streamline is a controversial approach to dealing with unauthorized immigrants that channels the apprehended into a criminal court system that has been called an assembly line and a kangaroo court. Read more about Texas Matters: Operation Streamline And Problems With The U.S. Immigration System

Jul 15, 2016
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San Antonio Current

The Feds Have Spent Billions Jailing People for Illegal Immigration

Eleven years ago, people caught entering the country illegally wouldn't even be criminally prosecuted. Instead, their cases went through a civil removal process. However, in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security instituted Operation Streamline, which moved immigration into the federal criminal courts.

The result? A dumbfounding amount of taxpayer dollars have been spent prosecuting what used to be civil cases, has clogged federal court systems along the border and has not stopped people from trying to cross the border illegally into the United States, according to research published by the Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies in a new book called Indefensible found.

"Operation Streamline is known for the disturbing spectacle of mass courtroom proceedings in which up to 80 shackled migrants are arraigned, convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor improper entry charges," study author Bethany N. Carson writes. 

In 2015, nearly half of all federal prosecutions were of people accused of improper entry or re-entry. Read more about The Feds Have Spent Billions Jailing People for Illegal Immigration

Jul 14, 2016
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The Guardian

Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report

The Obama administration’s prosecution of immigrants who cross the border into the US is a driving force in mass incarceration, according to a new report.

Cases against immigrants for having illegally entered the country, known as illegal entry and re-entry, accounted for half of all criminal cases in the US federal court system last year, a report from Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership found. Non-citizens currently make up nearly a quarter of the total federal prison population, with Mexican nationals alone accounting for 15%.

Now several US judges who sentenced thousands of immigrants say the zero-tolerance policy for such cases they helped enforce was ineffective and should end.

“The only thing we have done is destroyed the lives of many people whose only crime is a desire to exercise their human rights to feed and care for themselves and their families,” said retired judge Felix Recio, who served as a federal magistrate from 1999 to 2013 in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. Read more about Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report

Jul 14, 2016
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Tucson Sentinel

Advocates: Fast-track immigration courts costly, ineffective

The report, titled "Indefensible: A decade of mass incarceration of migrants prosecuted for crossing the border" was a written by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, two research and advocacy groups focused on reducing incarceration and lobbying against private prisons. 

After 10 years, nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted through Operation Streamline, said Judy A. Greene, director of Justice Strategies and one of the report's co-authors. "This gobbles up half of the federal court docket, where nearly half of federal prosecutions are for essentially trespassing," she said. 

"This policy has resulted in a human rights disaster. It’s ineffective, it’s wasteful and it’s failed by every measure," Greene said. Read more about Advocates: Fast-track immigration courts costly, ineffective

Jul 14, 2016
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Common Dreams

End 'Operation Streamline': How One Human Rights Disaster is Driving Several More

The 10-year-old, controversial "Operation Streamline," through which immigrants who cross the border are targeted for criminal prosecution, is wasting taxpayer dollars, tearing apart families, and driving mass incarceration, according to a new report. 

The analysis from nonprofit groups Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership, released Wednesday in the form of a book (pdf), is based on interviews with judges, public defenders, advocates, activists, former prosecutors, and individuals who have been prosecuted as well as their families. "It was clear from talking to actors throughout this system that it is broken in every way," the report reads. Read more about End 'Operation Streamline': How One Human Rights Disaster is Driving Several More

Jul 14, 2016
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The San Antonio Express News

Operation Streamline crackdown on illegal immigration costly and ineffective, new report claims

McALLEN — A controversial program that targets unauthorized immigrants for criminal prosecution has clogged border courts, cost billions to imprison them, and torn apart tens of thousands of families while doing little to deter illegal immigration, according to a new report published Wednesday by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies.

The report, “Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” highlights what it says are the failures of Operation Streamline, a decade-old initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice that handles illegal border crossing as a federal crime and treats unauthorized immigrants as criminals.

“This policy has resulted in a human rights disaster,” said the report’s co-author Judith A. Greene, director of Justice Strategies, an organization that supports criminal justice reform. “It’s ineffective, it’s wasteful and it’s failed by every measure.” Read more about Operation Streamline crackdown on illegal immigration costly and ineffective, new report claims

Jul 13, 2016
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Univision

Op-Ed: Prosecuting Migrants Is An Indefensible Failure

Roughly 35 years ago mass incarceration was born in the United States. It began with draconian drug laws which disproportionately targeted the poor and communities of color. It then spread to other social ills, like mental illness and homelessness, which -- like drug addiction -- were punished rather than treated.

As the U.S. has become the prison capital of the world, many now recognize that mass incarceration is a moral failure. In 2014, 30 states passed laws aimed to reduce their prison populations. In November of last year, 6,000 drug offenders were released early from federal prison because of a retroactive reduction in drug sentences. An additional 8,550 individuals could be eligible for release this November.

Yet while bipartisan support to end mass incarceration has grown, the drive to criminalize and incarcerate immigrants has intensified. A new book released today by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, “Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” demonstrates the inhumanity, futility, and exorbitant costs of criminalizing immigration. Read more about Op-Ed: Prosecuting Migrants Is An Indefensible Failure

Jul 4, 2016
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Casa Grande Dispatch

Texas prison is big business for Eloy

“It still feels like it’s a lot of money, even for that,” said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based company that strongly opposes for-profit private prisons such as the one in Dilley.

Caceres’ organization has held protests outside the facility and has pending litigation against South Texas Family Residential Facility.

After a California judge ruled that families detained in the facilities should be released because they did not have the proper child care licenses, ICE stepped in and asked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issue a child care license to another family facility in Texas.

Before a license could be issued for the Dilley facility, Grassroots Leadership sued.

“Our contention is that the agency does not have the authority to license prisons as children care facilities, and these family detention camps are prisons,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the organization. Read more about Texas prison is big business for Eloy

Jun 29, 2016
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Vice

Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans

The US immigration detention has ballooned since the turn of the millennium, doubling in size between 2000 and 2010 amidst a national crackdown on immigration. The bloated system, run largely by private, for-profit prison companies,currently incarcerates men, women, and even children, and the detention centers have been plagued by allegations of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual assault.

In a significant departure from the Obama administration's policies, Clinton has pledged to close these private-run detention centers. She has also promised to close the family detention centers opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to an influx of children and mothers seeking asylum from violence-plagued countries in Central America.

Immigration advocates aren't totally satisfied, pointing out that Clinton has not actually promised to decrease overall detention of undocumented immigrants. "We don't think immigrant detention should exist," said Christina Parker, who directs immigration programs for Grassroots Leadership. "There's a strong argument that the only reason immigrant detention so large is to profit two or three companies. So if you believe that then there would be no reason for them to exist after private contracts ended."

Parker added that the Democratic candidate should specify "how exactly and when exactly" the facilities would shut down. So far, Clinton has not. Read more about Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans

Jun 27, 2016
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AlterNet

Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

“At first the Obama administration said they were locking up families to deter people from crossing,” Cristina Parker, organizer with the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet. “Then when a judge said that was unconstitutional they changed their rationale and said it’s for national security, which is a thin argument. Seeing on paper that they have a quota that directly benefits private prisons underlines that family detention is really driving revenue and profits.” Read more about Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

Jun 25, 2016
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The Guardian

Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center

Federal immigration officials are moving forward with plans for a new 500-bed family detention center to house migrant women and children, even as many advocates and politicians have called for the closure of such facilities altogether.

Officials in Dimmit County, 45 miles from the Texas border with Mexico, say they’ll consider a bid on Monday from a firm who says their facility in a 27-acre former work camp for oil workers would provide dramatically better conditions than two other family detention centers in the state.

Those facilities have faced complaints of poor food, inadequate medical care and allegations of sexual abuse from detainees, activists and the US Civil Rights Commission.

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But Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership, said she and other advocates object inherently to the concept of a detention center for families fleeing violence, regardless of the purported conditions.

“If you are not free to leave, then it doesn’t matter how nice it is,” Parker said. “It’s a prison.” Read more about Immigration officials consider bid for new 'hotel-like' detention center

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