There is an immediate need for detention center reform throughout the nation. The inhumane conditions and poor treatment found in America's detention centers have been apparent for quite some time. A recent article by the Texas Observer has shed light on some specific instances related to this troubling situation.
Although President Obama called for reform in 2009, there has yet to be any substantial changes. Since then, the number of deportees remains relatively consistent and these privately owned detention centers continue to expand. There are an estimated 400,000 individuals awaiting hearings in front of an immigration judge. Many of these people remain incarcerated in detention centers.
One major concern is that some of these detained individuals are legal permanent residents, asylum petitioners, or those who have been victims of human trafficking or domestic violence. Having to wait several months or even years to have their cases adjudicated can lead to detrimental effects for detainees and their families.
Detention centers have been known to provide less than adequate living situations for the detainees. Some detainees have suffered physical abuse while being detained and many must go without medical care and have little access to legal resources.
An extensive report was issued by the nonprofit group Detention Watch Network in 2012. This document exposed malicious and negligent acts performed by detention centers throughout the country. The study focused its attention on ten of the most troubling situations. The report also included a letter to President Obama. This letter asked the President for his attention on the matter and for those ten centers to be closed down. The facilities remain open. You can read the complete letter here.
One of the ten listed in the report is located right here in Arizona. The Pinal County Jail is located in Florence, just north of Tucson. ICE has been utilizing the county jail since 2005 and can use up to 625 beds. The maximum capacity of the jail is 1,540.
Although ICE contends that immigration detention is not to be considered a punishment, the conditions of the facility make that statement laughable. Some of the major concerns associated with the Pinal County Jail are the following:
- Abusive treatment;
- Denial of outdoor recreation;
- Denial of family visits;
- Inadequate sanitation and hygiene;
- Insufficient medical and mental health; and
- Limited access to legal counsel.
While it didn't make the top-ten list, the other detention facility in Arizona is not without its faults. The Eloy Detention Center is also located north of Tucson. Reports of poor medical and mental health care have been on the rise in Eloy.
In April of 2013, two detainees committed suicide at the Eloy facility. Suicides generally signify a much larger problem. These concerns generally include inadequate staffing and ineffective mental health services.
Unfortunately, detention is unavoidable in some immigration cases. However, reform is needed. We have worked with hundreds of clients who have been detained in both Florence and Eloy. I understand the importance of resolving your legal matters as quickly as possible. If you are seeking legal representation, call my office today for a consultation.