alternatives to detention

Jan 5, 2017
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The Texas Observer

America Beyond Detention

The United States portrays itself as a beacon of freedom and liberty, yet it operates the world’s largest immigrant detention system, a burgeoning network that locks up refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants who seek protection or a new life on our shores. In 2015 alone, more than 367,000 men, women and children were imprisoned in a system of 637 public and for-profit private prisons. The Trump administration has promised a crackdown on undocumented immigrants that could set off more growth in the detention sector.

On any given day, as many as 42,000 people wait in detention as their cases slowly move through overburdened immigration courts. Some will languish for years, costing U.S. taxpayers $126 per inmate per day. Far more significant is the human cost. Incarceration often leads to illness, depression or even suicide. In little more than a decade, at least 166 immigrants have died while in detention.

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Critics of detention argue that a 2009 congressional mandate requiring that ICE maintain 34,000 daily detention beds forces the agency to choose detention over alternatives. The quota has helped boost the stock of for-profit prison companies, which have looked to non-criminal immigrants as a source of growth. Immigrants nowrepresent the fastest-growing sector of the prison population.

The system is also financially burdensome. “We spend $2 billion a year just on detaining immigrants,” says Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group. “And this is only part of a much larger detention and deportation apparatus that costs us billions, but it’s also costly in human lives.” Alternatives to detention such as residential shelters are a less expensive, more humane way to comply with U.S. laws, he says. “Detention should never be the first priority.” [node:read-more:link]

Jul 1, 2015
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The Monitor

Letter to the Editor: Ankle monitoring is an alternative form of detention, not an alternative to detention

A letter to the editor from Bethany Carson, immigration policy analyst and organizer says, "the Monitor’s June 28 editorial on family detention centers cited ankle monitoring as a key alternative to long-term family detention. While the inhumane warehousing of asylum seekers in secure, for-profit facilities must come to an end, ankle monitoring is an alternative form of detention — not an alternative to detention...

Ankle monitors are particularly inappropriate to use with certain groups, as illuminated after they were placed on 400 Garífuna women in New York. An international advocacy group working with the women stated that this electronic shackling caused them to recall their historic trauma of enslavement by colonizers in Honduras.

Electronic monitoring also carries a profit incentive for the same corporation that runs the family detention camp at Karnes City: GEO Group Inc. BI Inc., which contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide electronic monitoring, was acquired by GEO Group in 2011 — a corporation which has spent enormous sums on political contributions and lobbying on immigration issues." [node:read-more:link]

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