Open Letter to Corrections Corporation of America Laments the Use of Staff Chaplain to Hide Treatment of Immigrants Detained at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia
GEORGIA – In December, faith leaders and immigration activists from around the country were strongly disappointed to read an op-ed titled “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” penned by Corrections Corporation of America chaplain, Rev. Joseph Shields, and published in The Hill as a response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani. In response, faith leaders have addressed an open letter to Rev. Joseph Shields and the Corrections Corporation of America, calling on the corporation and the facility’s chaplain to “stand on spiritual authority, alongside the unjustly detained children of God, and against any actor, who dehumanizes, commodifies or mistreats those entrusted to his spiritual care, including his employer.”
I was shocked and appalled to read the December 9, 2014 op-ed, “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” by Rev. Joseph Shields of Stewart in response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani. The picture painted of this prison by Rev. Shields, an employee of the Corrections Corporation of America, bears no resemblance to my experience at Stewart.
I was detained at Stewart from January to June 2011. I crushed my toe and twisted my leg while working in the Stewart Detention Center’s kitchen for sub-minimum wages, and both injuries were undertreated.
Georgia #Not1More Looks to Prevent Future ICE Abuses
Members of the Georgia #Not1More coalition today announced the latest victory in their efforts to end unconstitutional detention per ICE detainer requests in Georgia.
DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann has announced that, effective immediately, he will end submission to federal detainer requests, a centerpiece of the failed Secure Communities deportation quota program, without a warrant or other sufficie
“I requested and received a legal review of this practice,” said Sheriff Mann. “The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause. If our judicial system determines that an individual should no longer be held in custody, it is not in my authority to countermand that decision. We all benefit from a nation of laws that regulate the ways people can be detained, and we should be grateful that is the case.”
Representatives of the Georgia #Not1More coalition welcomed the Sheriff’s announcement and will continue to carefully monitor the implementation of the DHS initiative replacing Secure Communities, Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), due to fundamental concerns with police-ICE collaboration exemplified in previous ICE experiments.
“Rejecting ICE’s detainer requests makes all Georgians safer and brings DeKalb County policy in line with the Constitution. We’re glad to see Sheriff Mann taking proactive measures to address the harm to both public safety and community trust in law enforcement that involvement in federal deportation efforts has caused. We will continue to work with the Sheriff to create a bright line between law enforcement and federal deportation efforts to protect our families and prevent ICE programs from violating anyone’s rights regardless of what new name the agency gives to its quota pursuits.” –Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
“SONG and the Georgia #Not1More coalition are heartened by this decision, and we hope that Sheriff Mann’s action on this reflects further commitment on behalf of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department to work with immigrant communities and our allies post-implementation. We have directly experienced the harm inflicted on our communities by ICE, and with the recent political maneuvers at the federal level, it is increasingly important for our communities to remain vigilant and aware of how this implementation will happen in Georgia.” – Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Southerners On New Ground (SONG).
“We Commend Sheriff Mann for putting an end to the unconstitutional practice of prolonging individuals’ detention per ICE detainer requets. This action is sure to increase community trust in the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. Going forward, we will monitor the implementation of the new DHS program, PEP, and will document and take action on any violations resulting from continued local law enforcement entanglement with ICE.” – Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia.
Georgia #Not1More coalition is a coalition made up of: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Southerners On New Ground (SONG), US Human Rights Network, ACLU of Georgia, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Jobs with Justice, Georgia WAND, Racial Action Justice Center, coalicion de lideres latinos-CLILA, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Southeastern Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN), Women Watch Afrika, Project South, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, Georgia Detention Watch, GA Moral Mondays, and Atlanta American Friends Service Committee.
More than two dozen detainees at a notorious immigration detention center in Georgia staged a hunger strike and protest last week over inedible food, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called the protest at Stewart Detention Center a “riot” that required that detainees be “segregated for disciplinary purposes,” according to the AJC.
The ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch filed a complaint raising alarm about a hunger strike that detainees began on or around June 12, during which hundreds of detainees threw their food away. Detainees have complained that their food is often filled with maggots, or that the same water used to boil eggs is reused to brew coffee. Detainees who work in food preparation have also complained of a roach infestation in the facility’s kitchen. Detainees were frequently served rotten food.
The ACLU Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch express grave concern about news of a hunger strike at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia last week. Discontent has long been brewing over the poor quality of the food, desperately inadequate medical care, and unlivable conditions. A group of detained immigrants decided to organize together in protest. According to multiple reports, instead of addressing the complaints, guards placed hunger strikers and the entire unit on lock-down. The ACLU of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch call for transparency from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reiterate their previous calls for closure of this corporate-run facility.
McRae Correctional and D. Ray James Correctional facilities in McRae and Folkston, Georgia are two of the 13 little-known CAR (Criminal Alien Requirement) prisons for immigrants in the United States. For the new report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison Industry, the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas have investigated CAR prisons in Texas run by Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, the same private prison companies that operate McRae and D. Ray James. The report reveals inhumane conditions and egregious mistreatment of immigrants in prisons that enrich the for-profit prison industry at tremendous costs to taxpayers.
“The report findings are consistent with what we have documented in Georgia. CCA at McRae and the GEO Group at D. Ray James have a record of violations of constitutional and Bureau of Prisons standards governing the medical treatment of prisoners,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.
In August 2011, the ACLU of Georgia submitted comments to the Bureau of Prisons asking that the agency not renew its contract for operation of McRae. The ACLU of Georgia has also submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Bureau of Prisons regarding treatment of prisoners at D. Ray James. The comments and the FOIA request are available upon request.
The culmination of a four-year investigation, the ACLU report on facilities in Texas shows how the federal Bureau of Prisons incentivizes private prison companies to keep CAR prisons overcrowded and understaffed. The companies provide scant medical care that is often administered incorrectly, if delivered at all.
As Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, explained, “The shameful conditions inside CAR prisons come from the government’s decision to allow the suffering inside these for-profit prisons. For instance, 10% of the bed space in CAR prisons is reserved for extreme isolation—nearly double the rate in normal federal prisons. I spoke to prisoners who spent weeks in isolation cells after being sent there upon intake—simply arriving at prison was the reason why they were locked in a cell and fed through a slot for 23 hours a day.”
CAR prisons hold non-citizens who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S., mostly for immigration offenses (such as unlawfully reentering the country).
Read the report: www.aclu.org/CARabuse.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia has sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation asking them to investigate two federal immigration detention centers in Georgia.
The ACLU based its request in the March 21 letter on a 2012 report it prepared on immigration detention in Georgia. The report documented the plight of what the ACLU says are thousands of individuals detained in U.S. immigration and customs enforcement detention facilities whose civil rights have been violated while incarcerated at two privately-run, for-profit centers in Irwin and Stewart counties.
The primary mission of this Conference is to continue the building of a broad based Coalition that will develop strategies collectively on the approaches necessary to END the New Jim Crow in Georgia & the United States. Becoming increasingly organized locally will contribute more to the growing national movement to STOP MASS INCARCERATION.
The ACLU of Georgia has been joined by dozens of other local and national groups in seeking a Congressional investigation of two of the worst immigration detention facilities in the country, Stewart and the Irwin County Detention Center. This request comes in the face of inaction of ICE to recommendations in our May 2012 report, “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia.” You can find the letter to the Georgia Congressional delegation here.
In light of the inaction of the federal government and for-profit prison corporations in the face of documented human rights violations, the ACLU of Georgia sent letters to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rapporteur on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, requesting a meeting to discuss immigration detention conditions in Georgia.