(AUSTIN, Texas) — Jim Wells County Commissioners have decided against getting into business with a multinational private prison company in order to open a new family detention center there. On Monday county commissioners were unanimous in a vote to end negotiations with prison company Serco, preventing the opening of another family detention center in Texas.
The vote came after a public hearing last week in Alice, Texas, where dozens of local residents, immigrant rights advocates and faith leaders gathered in the room to strongly urge the commissioners to block the proposal. The outcry from the local community, which was focused on both the human rights of detained immigrants and what little benefit Serco could bring to the community, is what turned the commissioners against the proposal. County Commissioner Margie H. Gonzalez said that the county was not aware of human rights abuses in Serco facilities and that they did not want to be part of something inhumane.
“The questions and concerns that people in the Jim Wells community brought to the forum were so important. It was clear that family detention and a new for-profit prison was not something they would just accept because this company asked them to,” said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership Immigration Organizer who was present at the forum. “Not only is the policy of family detention rightfully being questioned in this community but so are the human rights violations inside these prisons.”
Serco has been lobbying U.S. Congressional staff for more than a year, claiming their detention centers are “alternatives” to the two family detention centers operated by GEO Group and CCA in South Texas. Serco had been in communication with Jim Wells County commissioners about converting an abandoned nursing home into another one of the controversial immigrant family lockups in the state. Last week Serco operatives had a meeting with Jim Wells County commissioners and were initially approved to buy the nursing home to house over 600 immigrants in the small town of San Diego, Texas.
Serco is a multinational private prison company that operates seven detention centers in the UK and Australia. Like its U.S. counterparts, Serco has a long track record of abuse and neglect inside their inhumane, for-profit lockups.
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
Contact: Alejandro Caceres, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111