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Ivey meets with legislative leaders on prison situation

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday met with legislative leaders in a special summit to discuss options on how to proceed on improvements to the state’s prison infrastructure.

“We had a very positive, informative meeting this afternoon with Pro Tem Reed, Speaker McCutcheon and the two general fund budget chairmen, Senator Albritton and Representative Clouse, on the status of Alabama’s prisons,” Ivey said.

June 1 had been the deadline to conclude contracts with private prison developers on building three privately owned megaprisons. That deadline came and went without either of the private consortiums being able to find bank financing for the $3.6 billion needed to purchase the land and build the mammoth new penitentiaries.

Ivey had been pursuing the deal to get the new prisons built without having to deal with the Alabama Legislature. Wednesday’s meeting with legislative leaders is a strong indication that the governor’s office plan to “go it alone” has met with setbacks and could be dead in the water.

“No decisions were made today; this was simply an opportunity for an update on where we are and what needs to happen, going forward with respect to improving our prison infrastructure,” Ivey told reporters.

Wednesday’s discussions presumably included discussions about building the new penitentiaries by the state itself, likely financed with a bond issues. Gov. Robert Bentley first proposed paying for four new megaprisons with a bond issue in the 2015 legislative session. That plan by the Alabama Department of Corrections did not have the votes to proceed then. Bentley brought it back to the legislature in 2016 and 2017 where legislators were unwilling to borrow $billions for prison construction. The Ivey administration inherited the bond issue plan in 2017 when Bentley resigned rather than be impeached and Kay Ivey was elevated to the Governor’s Mansion. Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn met the same opposition that Bentley had had with the bond issue plan. Following Ivey’s 2019 election, ADOC and the Governor had been pursuing their go it along through a private lease build option so that legislative approval would have been unnecessary.

A bond issue would presumably be approve by the legislature in a special session on prisons this summer. While Republican legislative leaders have voiced their support for a bond issue option if the private lease build plan failed; Democrats have been less than enthusiastic about borrowing $billions to build megaprisons and reportedly none of the Democrats were present at Wednesday’s discussions.

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“We agreed there needs to be many conversations held over the coming weeks which would include more legislators and stakeholders,” Ivey acknowledged. “More than anything, though, there was a strong consensus that we must find a solution to this long-neglected challenge that has plagued our state for so long.”

2021 – Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) also released a statement following his meeting with Governor Kay Ivey to discuss issues related to improvements to the Alabama prison system:

“The Governor invited legislative leadership, along with the House and Senate General Fund Budget chairs, to meet with her today to discuss this important topic of prison plans,” Reed said. “We had a good discussion, and the Governor explained to us what happened with her funding and construction plan.”

“The Governor indicated that she wants to work with the legislature on evaluating ways to address and solve this very important topic for our state,” Reed continued. “I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Senate and House on a solution that will allow our state to move forward with a plan that is good for Alabama.”

Friday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, predicted that there would be a special session in mid August to pass a bond issue along the lines of what the legislature was looking at doing in 2016 and 2017.

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“I really thought we would that issue back in 2017; but governor Bentley ran into some issues and had to resign,” Chairman Clouse told PBS’s Don Dailey on Capital Journal ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with the Governor.

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“We have had a series of back luck,” Clouse said of efforts to pass a prison bond issue. Clouse cited Bentley’s removal, the 2018 election, a 2017 court ordered redistricting, and the COVID-19 pandemic for thwarting past bond issues for prisons.

“I commend the governor for exploring different options,” Clouse said of Ivey’s effort to do a private lease build. “It seemed to be promising; but the finance issue could not be resolved, and at the end of the day we would not have owned the prisons at the end of the thirty years.”

“I think it is a good idea to start from scratch and go back to the deal that we were looking at five years ago,” Clouse said.

Clouse acknowledged that there would be opposition in the legislature.

“There are people in the legislature that have prisons in their district that know this is the right way to go; but can’t vote for it for political reasons and there are going to be some people who don’t just want to borrow the money,” Clouse said.

“We have got to have new prison. The ones that we have now are dilapidated,” Clouse told Dailey. “We have issues with the federal courts.”

Clouse said that the facilities as they are now makes it a challenge for the Alabama Department of Correction to hire security personnel and mental health professionals, both of which have been ordered by the federal courts.

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“It is a daunting task to hire people to work in those facilities as they are now,” Clouse said.

“We need to come up with the exact plan and let everybody see it,” Clouse said. “I think we can get it passed.”

The Governor has said that she will not call a special session unless she is in agreement with the plan.

“She is the only one that can call a special session,” Clouse said. “I believe we will come into agreement.”

“We will have to have a special session to deal with this and along the same lines we have the American Rescue Plan money to appropriate,” Clouse said.

Clouse said that they are still talking with the U.S. Treasury Department to see if they can appropriate some of the American Rescue Act money appropriated to the state for prison construction.

“I think we can use some. I don’t know how much,” Clouse said. “Any amount that we use will help defray some of the expenses from the bond issue.”

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Clouse said that he expects two and not just one special session.

“I think we definitely have to have two special sessions,” Clouse said. “The legislative redistricting is always controversial.”

The legislature has to reapportion and redistrict all 105 state house districts, the 35 Senate districts, the seven congressional districts and the state school board districts before the 2022 elections, which are currently scheduled for May 24, 2022.

“There will be controversy when we start moving lines,” Clouse continued. “We may be able to do those three redistrictings in one sessions; but it won’t be a five day session. It will be the full twelve day special session in a thirty day period.”

Clouse predicted that the special session on the prisons will be in mid-August.

“It is an issue that we need to address,” Clouse said.

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ICE Shut Down One Gruesome Detention Center—Then Transferred Immigrants to Another

*Content warning: suicide, sexual abuse

On May 20, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced its plan to sever the contract between U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, or ICE, and the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. This came after years of documented human rights abuses at Irwin and calls for its closure.

Private prison companies like CoreCivic contract with the federal government to cage more than 70 percent of detained immigrants.

“I have peace to know that another mother is not going to go through the same nightmare I went through,” said Wendy Dowe, a survivor of these abuses. Lourdes, a fellow survivor whose last name is omitted for safety reasons, echoed this feeling: “I am grateful that we were seen and heard and that the government acted. They heard us—that we are not just immigrants but human beings.”

Unfortunately, even before DHS’s announcement, ICE had already been transferring individuals from Irwin to the Stewart Detention Center, a deadly privately owned prison located about 100 miles away, in Lumpkin, Georgia.

The Stewart Detention Center, operated by private prison company CoreCivic, remains one of the largest and deadliest detention centers in the country. Eight men have died there in the last four years alone. And now, ICE has begun using Stewart to detain immigrant women.

It was women who suffered the most horrific abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center, including invasive gynecological procedures without consent. Since its inception, Stewart has repeatedly violated the human rights of those incarcerated there.

In May 2020, Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, a thirty-four-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, died from COVID-19 after being transferred from Stewart. It was Georgia’s first immigrant death in ICE custody due to COVID-19, and the second death nationally. His death, like so many others, could have been prevented.

Two months earlier, advocates and doctors in Georgia warned ICE that immigrant detention centers were not equipped to handle a COVID-19 outbreak, and urged them to release detained immigrants immediately. 

As documented in the nonprofit group El Refugio’s recent report, “Cage of Fear,” ICE continued to detain immigrants in crowded prisons where medical neglect, lack of personal protective equipment, absence of social distancing, and unsanitary conditions remained rampant. In March 2020, more than 3,000 medical professionals and advocates urged ICE to release detained immigrants  from custody, but the agency failed to do so.

Tragically, since Santiago’s passing, three more men have died in ICE custody at Stewart due to COVID-19 complications. The responsibility for the deaths of Felipe Montes, fifty-seven years old; Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez, sixty-one years old; and Jose Guillen-Vega, seventy years old, lies in the hands of ICE.


For the last decade, advocates have raised red flags about human rights abuses occurring inside Stewart. Among them: a lack of medical care and mental health care, forced labor, arbitrary use of solitary confinement, unsanitary conditions, and the use of force against the detained population. 

In a 2019 letter to Georgia Congressional delegates, Project South described the ongoing abuses, including the uptick of deaths by suicide related to aggressive use of solitary confinement. It noted that two men with a known history of mental illess, Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph and Efrain Romero De La Rosa, died by suicide after being put in solitary confinemen.

In 2017, Jiménez-Joseph told medical professionals at Stewart that he felt suicidal and needed a higher dosage of his medication. While his teleconference appointment to see a psychiatrist was delayed by several months, he told a nurse at Stewart that he was hearing voices directing him to kill himself. Several days later, he jumped nine feet off of a two-tier ledge, for which he was punished by being sentenced to twenty days in solitary confinement. On the nineteenth day, Jiménez-Joseph was found hanging by his bedsheets from the sprinkler head.

Earlier that same day, officials at Stewart denied Jiménez-Joseph a visit from El Refugio, which was concerned about Jiménez-Joseph’s health after speaking to his mother.

In 2019, ICE buried Pedro Arriago-Santoya, a forty-four-year-old immigrant who died in its custody at Stewart. He was placed in an unmarked grave in Atlanta after ICE failed to find his next of kin. Last February, immigrant rights groups and community members came together to give him a dignified memorial service.


Private prison companies like CoreCivic contract with the federal government to cage more than 70 percent of detained immigrants. In fiscal year 2019, according to the Detention Watch Network, the U.S. government detained more than 500,000 in a vast network of more than 200 jails across the country.

As for CoreCivic, a fourth of its contracts are with ICE, despite the for-profit company’s appalling track record of abuses. According to the group Grassroots Leadership, state audits have documented “staff mismanagement, widespread violence, delays in medical treatment and unacceptable living conditions including a lack of access to toilet facilities, with prisoners forced to defecate in plastic containers and bags.” 

There have also been several reports of sexual abuse in CoreCivic prisons. A 2015 lawsuit accused a former “escort officer and resident supervisor” of sexually assaulting at least eight immigrant women at T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Texas.

Tragic deaths have also happened. In 2004, four guards were indicted for beating incarcerated woman, Estelle Richardson, to death. Her autopsy report found that she had “four broken ribs, a cracked skull, and internal organ injuries,” indicating she had been slammed on a hard surface. 

In 2013, Autumn Miller sued CoreCivic, allegeding that she was denied medical care when she went into labor at one of the company’s state jails in Dallas, Texas. She ultimately gave birth prematurely to baby Gracie in a toilet in her cell. Gracie died four days later.

These gruesome violations should come as no surprise when looking at CoreCivic’s founder, T. Don Hutto, and his career in corrections. In 1967, Hutto became warden of Ramsey plantation in Texas, where he used prison labor to pick cotton. In 1972, as commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, he began a “prison rodeo,” where people paid money to watch incarcerated individuals in uniform ride horses and chase pigs—sometimes resulting in injuries. 

Hutto also continued prison labor in plantations in Arkansas. At a federal hearing, individuals who were incarcerated—or rather, enslaved—at these plantations testified to being “punished by being cuffed behind their backs, put on the hood of a truck, and driven at high speeds through the plantation, sometimes causing them to fall off.” Others said they were “beaten with blackjacks, stripped, and left naked in an unlit ‘quiet cell’ for twenty-eight days for refusing to labor in the fields.”

To this day, forced labor continues to be an issue at CoreCivic prisons like Stewart, where there is an ongoing lawsuit for forcing immigrants to work for as little as $1 a day and punishing them if they refuse.

There is no way to reform institutions like CoreCivic or ICE. Stewart must be shut down, ICE must be abolished, and the Biden Administration must immediately discontinue all contracts with private prisons.

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State leaders discuss ‘significant impact’ of closing William S. Key prison

Sen. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) questions leaders of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections during a special committee hearing Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Tres Savage)

On May 13, the same day that the Oklahoma Legislature announced its annual budget agreement, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections created a “draft” proposal to close the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply, a small town in northwest Woodward County that relies heavily on the prison for jobs and economic activity.

As legislative leaders lauded their budget as a comprehensive balance of savings, tax cuts and investments that would help local communities, they knew nothing of the DOC decision to close the prison. Neither did the public until Dawnita Fogelman of the Woodward News published a June 16 article breaking the news. Fogelman had contacted DOC officials the day prior to ask about a rumor that the minimum-security facility would be closing, and on June 16 the state agency issued a press release to an unknown slate of media confirming the decision.

The news — and the way legislators learned about it — frustrated some state lawmakers, particularly those involved in the budget process and those representing northwest Oklahoma.

“There are winners and losers being picked, and northwest Oklahoma just seems always to come out on the losing side when it comes to investment in what we have,” said Sen. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) during a special Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today on the topic.

In opening testimony for the hearing, Oklahoma Secretary of Public Safety Tricia Everest said she only learned that DOC had announced the William S. Key Correctional Center closure after speaking with Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah).

“It was certainly a hasty announcement. It was not a hasty decision,” Everest said. “With a lowering of the incarceration (rate), we don’t need the bed space.”

While emphasizing that the facility needs at least $35 million in structural repairs, Everest repeatedly referred to closing the prison by the end of 2021 as an “opportunity,” a word that boiled Murdock’s blood.

“I don’t see this as an opportunity. I see this as a death sentence to a community, (to) three different counties,” he said before asking DOC director Scott Crow a series of questions that began with how many employees work at the prison.

Crow said 142.

“Do you know what the population of Fort Supply is?” Murdock asked.

Crow replied, “I do not know that off hand.”

Murdock said the answer is roughly 350. He then asked Crow what he thinks the prison’s closure will do to Fort Supply.

“I understand, sir, that it’s a significant impact to that community,” Crow said.

Murdock then asked, “The day that you made this decision, when you went home that night. How much sleep did you lose?”

Crow responded quickly.

“Sir, I lose sleep on nearly a daily basis because of the problems in the correctional system around the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “It’s not limited to one facility or community.”

‘An important resource in history’

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The William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply, Oklahoma, was opened in 1988. (Oklahoma.gov)

Beyond the enormous economic impact to Fort Supply residents and others in northwest Oklahoma, the fate of the William S. Key Correctional Center intertwines complicated state history with efforts aimed at improving the state’s future, particularly on the topic of criminal justice reform.

The prison opened in 1988 on a 3,200-acre swath of land 13 miles northwest of Woodward, and it includes the historical buildings of the original U.S. Army post that had connections to the Washita Massacre, one of the most infamous slaughters of Plains Indians in North America. Later, the fort’s mission changed to protect Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members.

“It’s an important resource in history,” Deena Fisher, a dean emeritus from Northwestern Oklahoma State University, told lawmakers. “We had the Smithsonian out in 2018 that did an entire documentary. [If people study the] Red River wars or what happened with the massacre at the Washita, this is the site where they go to.”

Fisher, who serves as president of the Oklahoma Historical Society’s board of directors, said the facility’s historic buildings are required to be maintained by state law. She and Murdock expressed concern over who would preserve the site’s historic elements moving forward and whether funding would be available.

Since the June 16 news of the prison’s closure, Fisher said she has heard from Cheyenne tribal citizens worried about the graves of their relatives on the property. She noted that Buffalo Soldiers — a term coined by Native Americans to describe African-American Army regiments in the 1860s — were stationed there as well.

“This is huge, as far as I’m concerned. I’m sorry if I can’t do this because I am emotional,” Fisher said during testimony. “It is sacred ground, and it certainly is historic ground.”

‘That’s a huge impact’

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Deena Fisher, president of the Oklahoma Historical Society board of directors, testifies during a Senate hearing about the William S. Key Correctional Center on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Tres Savage)

The use of historic ground as the site of a prison complex underscores the penal system problems of America, which incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world. At times, Oklahoma has led the country’s per capita incarceration rate, and how best to reduce the state’s prison population has been a significant and sometimes controversial subject in recent years.

Two years ago, the state had more than 26,000 people incarcerated. But according to Crow on Tuesday, that number has dropped to 21,572. In most conversations, the state’s declining incarceration rate would be celebrated as a victory for “smart on crime” policies.

But with the 1,105-bed William S. Key Correctional Center’s impending closure, lawmakers from northwest Oklahoma and even the assistant city manager of Woodward expressed concern about the sudden decision’s economic impact on a region of the state scrambling for jobs in a precarious petroleum market.

Murdock, Woodward City Manager Shaun Barnett and others noted that talk of closing the prison has percolated before, but Fisher and Barnett said they have always had an opportunity to emphasize the historic and economic importance of the facility in the past.

“We are disappointed we did not get to voice our concerns again as a community,” Barnett told lawmakers. “[The prison is] one of the top employment facilities in northwest Oklahoma when you’re looking at the impact.”

Additional repercussions might not be as obvious to most people, he said. For instance, the prison pays about $11,000 per month to the City of Woodward for water.

“That’s a huge impact to our utility service,” he said. “So $11,000 a month is a huge impact to our community.”

Prison employees from Fort Supply — who are being offered a chance to transfer to another prison, the closest of which is 76 miles away — do most of their shopping in Woodward, Barnett said. He estimated that as a potential $500,000 impact, with another $200,000 potentially lost for private businesses that do contracting and other business with the prison.

“This is now impacting big business to small business, and as those dollars are reduced, those businesses may also have to be reducing staff as well,” he said. “We just adopted a budget with the projected revenue for the next year. We’re now having to recalculate and estimate our losses. (…) This is going to impact us for years to come.”

Barnett and Murdock also expressed concern about the effect on Harper County Community Hospital, situated about 19 miles north of Fort Supply in Buffalo.

“This is detrimental to the Buffalo Hospital. This could unintentionally shut them down,” Barnett said.

‘The facility infrastructure is deteriorating’

Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) speaks with Secretary of Public Safety Tricia Everest on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Tres Savage)

Thompson, the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman who led Tuesday’s hearing, said future meetings on the issue are likely.

“I’m very concerned about economical impact to the area, but more specifically to the medical impact to the area,” he said. “I remember, before my time, that when we closed the Sayre prison, we lost the hospital. I know we’re really working on health care, and I’m very much concerned about what goes on with health care.”

Thompson said the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to learn more about the fiscal impact of closing the William S. Key Correction Center.

“I was hoping to have gained more information about what the true savings are going to be by closing this facility,” Thompson said. “We did not hear that today. What we heard was only $1.3 million to $1.5 million on the fiscal plan. So I was a little disappointed in not getting enough information about what we’re actually saving.”

Thompson acknowledged that DOC’s decisions on what prisons it might consider closing falls under the executive branch’s jurisdiction, especially after lawmakers reorganized the Board of Corrections as more of an advisory entity.

“The Legislature does have oversight, and they need to realize we will have meetings like this holding them accountable for their decisions,” Thompson said. “I’ve asked for a meeting with the governor, and I have not had that meeting yet.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s communications director reaffirmed the administration’s support for closing the prison, which Stitt toured in 2019.

“As Secretary Everest said in her opening statement today, the decision to close a dilapidated and unneeded facility is the right one for our state,” said Carly Atchison. “Gov. Stitt appreciates the Department of Corrections taking steps to ensure it can best execute its mission to protect the public, employees, and the inmates and offenders, and is committed to working with stakeholders to repurpose the land to benefit the community.”

Thompson called the historical aspect of the property “major” and said he wants to learn more about how the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will be affected. In 1908, the state’s first mental hospital was opened on the site. Eight decades later, the land and buildings in which ODMHSAS operates the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health at Fort Supply were transferred to the care of DOC, Mental Health Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges told lawmakers.

She said DOC currently maintains water and sewer lines for the mental health center, which is separated from the prison by a fence. DOC also maintains the facility grounds and provides security.

“It will be at a higher price (for us to operate),” Slatton-Hodges said. “Kind of the way we found out originally as well is that we have quite a few staff whose family members or spouses who work for the Department of Corrections, so that started coming through the rumor mill.”

Everest and Crow, however, emphasized to lawmakers that the dilapidated prison needs at least $35 million in structural improvements, including an electrical upgrade, central heat and air, a new roof and foundation repairs. Each of those items is reliant upon another, Crow said.

“When we talk about $35 million, that’s not taking into account anything that is needed for foundations or walls that are leaning or walls that are separating,” Crow said. “There are a whole lot of variables that play into this, but the most serious is that the facility infrastructure is deteriorating, and it has deteriorated over a number of years.”

The day’s testimony, however, did not curb the concerns of Murdock, who peppered DOC officials with questions, soliloquies and sarcasm. At times, his hands shook and voice quivered in a line between frustration and palpable anger.

“The travesty that has happened in Fort Supply has been ongoing for years,” he said. “Why did it get to this point? Because where the money goes and the budget goes to fix these is to upper management.”

Everest and Crow emphasized that neither was in their current position when past administrators decided how to spend the $160 million in correctional facility bond money authorized by the Legislature during Gov. Mary Fallin’s administration. None of the money was dedicated to the William S. Key prison.

“We cannot justify the continued expenditure of tens of millions of dollars of state funds to patch up a state facility that is no longer needed,” Everest said.

Murdock said it’s hard for his constituents — who packed the Senate conference room Tuesday — to hear such a statement.

“With the downfall of the oil community, northwest Oklahoma is desperate for jobs,” he said. “The ripple effect in the economy up there is going to be dramatic. More than likely we are going to lose a hospital over this.”

(Update: Fewer than 10 minutes after this article published, it was updated at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, to include a quote from Atchison.)

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COVID Froze Prison Visits, Spotlighting High Cost of Phone Calls

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Judi Jennings regularly led arts and crafts events in the visitors lobby at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections in Kentucky.

It wasn’t until in-person visits were suspended last year that Jennings realized how much it costs for people in jail to talk to those outside: around $5 for a 15-minute call to some local landlines, $9.99 for a 15-minute call to a cellphone.

“It became obvious that it was really a hardship on the families,” she said.

And when the city’s proposed 2021-22 budget came out, Jennings said she was shocked to see the corrections department stood to gain phone call revenue of more than $700,000. She shared her concerns with Metro Council Member Bill Hollander, a Democrat. He started a discussion with corrections officials that led to an amended budget that will cut off the revenue by the end of this year and source the money differently.

Hollander credited Jennings for bringing this issue to him. “I wish I could say differently, but it’s not something I would have focused on in terms of the entire budget,” he said in an interview.

Even the corrections department was on board: “If that means taking a little bit of a hit on losing a revenue stream, that’s a hit worth taking,” said Eric Troutman, the department chief of staff. He said prison officials want to cut the call rates “as low as possible.”

Calls can come at a steep cost. Nationally, the average cost of a 15-minute call from jail was $5.74 in 2018, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts-based research organization that favors alternatives to incarceration. Prisons and jails contract with companies to buy phone equipment and set call rates. Calls to and from a facility often come with fees.

The prison telecommunication industry generates an estimated $1.4 billion in annual revenue, with a few companies that dominate the market. In addition, many states and localities rake in millions each year from commissions built into contracts with the industry.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission, which can set rates for calls from prisons and jails across state lines and internationally, lowered the cost of calls by a third, to around 14 cents per minute. But states and municipalities set the costs of in-state calls in state prisons and local jails, where most incarcerated people are.

In Louisville and other places, advocates are speaking up—and those costs are dropping. In June, Connecticut became the first state to make calls free from its prisons. In California, San Francisco and San Diego counties now offer free calls. And proposals to offer calls for free or at reduced prices are being debated in Maine, New York and other states.









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Activists and officials involved in the shift credit the pandemic and widespread racial justice protests in 2020. “There was also all this stuff from the pandemic and the civil unrest, which brought to light how inequitable things really are,” Troutman said. “We saw that this burden is placed a lot on families who don’t have a lot to begin with.”

“You start to realize there really is momentum, and this isn’t going away,” said Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, a New York City-based organization that advocates nationally against prison industries.

But the opposition to free phone calls is fierce. In Massachusetts, for example, county sheriffs cut the costs of calls from jails to try to get ahead of legislation that would make calls free and thereby eliminate commissions.

“This is not a profit center for the sheriffs’ departments,” said Democratic Sheriff Steven Tompkins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, who is president of the state’s sheriffs association. “The money we are going to lose out on now needs to be replaced so that we can offer continuous, quality programming.”

Someone Has to Pay

For five years, Leslie Credle spent her days in federal prison and her money on calls to her children.

“You have to parent from behind the wall when you’re incarcerated,” Credle, 54, said in a recent interview. “It doesn’t really matter who takes care of your children, no one is going to love your kids like you do.”

The once or twice weekly calls from the federal prison cost her and her family around $200 each month, she said.

After being released in 2018, Credle jumped into advocacy work in her home state of Massachusetts, joining Families for Justice as Healing, a group that aims to end the incarceration of women and girls. The organization has been supporting legislation that would make calls free, Credle said.

But the members of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association, which consists of the 14 county sheriffs in the state, are wary of the potential loss of revenue they use for programs and other jail services.







A phone at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts.

Courtesy of Hampden County Sheriff’s Department




To show state legislators they are willing to help incarcerated people communicate, sheriffs will offer 10 minutes of free phone time per week starting this month. They also decided to stop connection fees and cap the per-minute call rate at 14 cents.

“I’m not against free inmate phone calls,” said Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi, a Democrat and the association’s vice president. “The bills with wide open free phone calls wouldn’t have allowed us to fund so many inmate services and programs that we provide.”

Cocchi said every penny of revenue—about $700,000 a year before the pandemic—goes to incarcerated people in some form or another, from vocational services to a bus line available to people being discharged.

Hampden County already charges 12 cents per minute, the lowest in the state, Cocchi said. Tompkins said Suffolk County will drop its rates from 18 to 14 cents a minute.

The sponsor of the free call legislation, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem, said in a statement to Stateline that she sees the sheriffs’ announcement as a beginning and not an end to the issue.

“I appreciate their recognition of how important it is for persons behind bars, whether sentenced or awaiting trial, to stay connected to their families, and believe that my legislation to provide phone calls at no cost to prisoners and their families is the appropriate next step,” Creem said.

Creem’s legislation is in the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, which plans to give it a hearing, according to a Senate aide. A similar bill moved favorably out of the committee last year but didn’t advance further.

The debate over who should pay for calls is ongoing in Maine, where state Rep. MaryAnne Kinney this session introduced a bill that would require prisons and jails to not accept commissions on phone or video calls, to cap call rates at 11 cents per minute and to allow incarcerated individuals two free 15-minute calls per week.

The bill has been carried over to next year’s session despite opposition from the Department of Corrections and the state sheriffs association.

Kinney, a Republican, said she introduced the legislation at the request of a Maine mother whose son is incarcerated.

“Hopefully we can put balance into not costing the family so much more than it already has cost them,” Kinney said. “[And] balance it with not costing the taxpayers that don’t have incarcerated family members.”

‘A Banner Year’

Tylek, of advocacy group Worth Rises, doesn’t think incarcerated people and their families should bear any communication costs.

“If you want to incarcerate people you need to pay for their incarceration,” Tylek said.

“When I talk to legislators, I ask, ‘What’s the purpose of prisons and jails?’ Most will talk about rehabilitation,” she said. “If the core function of prison and jails is rehabilitation, why are you not funding the programs? Why would that be a responsibility of families on the outside?”









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A 2015 report from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an Oakland, California-based organization that advocates for civil rights, found 1 in 3 families went into debt to pay for phone calls and visits.

The Connecticut law is a victory for Worth Rises, which has for years been working on cutting call costs and bringing attention to commissions nationally, Tylek said. 

Connecticut had been making a 68% commission on in-state calls, generating about $7 million a year in revenue. Starting in October 2022, the law will give people who are incarcerated free phone and video calls. It bars the state from getting commissions.

The Department of Corrections will have to pay for the communication services, which are expected to cost up to $4.5 million per year. The legislature’s Appropriations Committee included funding to pay for the service and address the revenue gap.

The new law passed the Democratic-controlled legislature with minimal Republican support. Republican state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas proposed an amendment that would have limited rates to the equivalent of the cost to the facility.

“Asking the taxpayers, and by extension the victims and the victims’ families, to subsidize this cost is wrong,” Rebimbas said in a statement after her amendment was voted down.

Connecticut will keep its contract with Securus Technologies, which issued a news release praising the state’s new “fully taxpayer funded model.”

In the same release, Securus said it started to offer no-commission and fully taxpayer-funded options in all contracts last year. The company now has 100 no-commission contracts, according to spokesperson Jade Trombetta. (In its 2020 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the company reported 840 contracts in total; the others include commissions.)

Securus also has lowered the average cost of calls to less than 14 cents a minute, Trombetta said, part of a “multi-year transformation effort to better serve justice-involved families and make our products more affordable and accessible.”









Stateline Story

COVID-19 Extends Sentences for Some Incarcerated People








In March, the company touted the 40 million free phone calls it offered in the past year in response to COVID-19. Another major vendor, GTL, said it worked with more than 400 facilities to provide more than 22 million free calls from March to May 2020. GTL did not respond to requests for comment.

Wanda Bertram, spokesperson for the Prison Policy Initiative, argued the companies’ free calls were “an asset for them in terms of publicity.”

“I think that 2020 was a banner year for these companies,” she said. “I actually think that in the wake of the pandemic, we are going to see these companies have more strength.”

Bertram’s assessment is supported by a Worth Rises analysis of financial statements from Securus’ parent company, Aventiv Technologies, that showed Securus’ revenue grew 10% in 2020 compared with 2% in 2019.

“I don’t mean to dilute the victory. Our movement has been getting a real win for families,” Bertram said. “They are going to keep working to squeeze money from families.” 

On a recent day in San Diego, Curtis Howard felt that squeeze. That afternoon he spent $200 to replenish the account that his brother—who is serving a life sentence in a California prison unit for people with mental illnesses—uses to call him.

“It’s always important to keep up with him and have access to him as much as possible,” Howard said. 

Howard is the lead organizer with the San Diego chapter of All of Us or None, a national organization that advocates for formerly and currently incarcerated people.

On July 1, San Diego County officials began offering free phone and video calls at its jails. Calls are limited to 15 minutes each, but there’s no cap on the number of calls a person can make. 

Howard said he’s grateful for the change and would like to see it extend to the state. For now, he’ll keep in touch, minute by minute.

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More change to come to help decrease violent crimes in Mississippi prisons, Commissioner says

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – According to the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Mississippi prisons could soon see a decrease in violent acts.

”I don’t think they should get beaten up and cut up,” Sarah Pittman said.

For most family members with relatives in a Mississippi prison, many fear their loved ones won’t make it out alive due to prison violence.

Sarah Pittman is the great-grandmother of East Mississippi Inmate D’Mario Bennett. She said in almost 7 years, he has been beaten three times. And this last time, he was stabbed and left hanging for dead before someone saved him.

“His mother found out through an inmate that was in there with him, that was one of his friends. He was in the hospital and everything and we didn’t know nothing about it,” Pittman said.

Over the last year and a half, Mississippi Department of Correction Commissioner Burl Cain said he has been working on cutting down violent acts in the state prisons through new programs, new facilities, and rehabilitation programs.

However, because East Mississippi is a private prison, those improvements haven’t arrived.

“We’re trying to work with out private partners in every way we can but they are going to have to measure up. I feel great compassion because we fail miserably whenever we have a grandmother, a mother, or family member that comes here and losses their life. It’s horrible and that’s not what we’re about,” Cain said.

Cain said now that Walnut Grove is open again, he will be using methods used at the Louisiana State Penitentiary to punish those who are violent in both state and private prisons.

“When we find an inmate with a killing weapon in the future, gang member or whoever you are, you’re going to wind up yourself at Walnut Grove in confinement and you’re not going to be living with the population that’s trying to do well, trying to rehabilitate themselves that’s not in a gang,” Cain said.

According to Cain, he has received dozens of letters from inmates in state prisons expressing gratitude for the improvements so far.

He hopes to have similar responses from private prisons in the future.

“We owe it to the inmates trying to improve and do well to keep the predators away from them. When you become a predator, you need to be where a predator goes – in a cage,” Cain said.

Cain added that he is always open to suggestions from the public and specifically from inmates’ family members on how to improve the prisons.

Pittman suggested more programs that improve mental health and medical issues could help keep inmates safe.

Copyright 2021 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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Albany lawmakers continue to clash over editing state bail, discovery laws | Local News

ALBANY — New campaigns to fight misinformation about the state’s criminal justice reforms grew louder this week in an attempt to steer a politically saturated debate over the need to edit the state’s bail and discovery laws.

Legislative leaders in Albany are expected to continue discussions next week about the need to revisit the state’s 2019 changes to its cash bail system as top state leaders remain at odds over the need to amend reforms rolled back in 2020.

Policy experts with project Justice Not Fear, launched by media and education initiative Zealous, work to refute misleading reports and statements on the state’s bail laws as officials — especially members of law enforcement and campaigning Republicans — tie the 2019 changes to a double-digit increase in homicides and violent crimes across the state seen since 2020.

“Ninety-eight percent of people released pretrial have not been rearrested for any felony that’s classified as violent that includes charges like simple possession of a weapon, even though there is no harm to a person alleged it’s still a violent felony offense,” said MK Kaishian, a civil rights attorney and legal policy and justice advocacy fellow for Zealous.

About 2% of the rough total 183,000 New Yorkers released before their trial without bail were rearrested for a violent crime, according to state Office of Court Administration data.

“Some of those cases are later dismissed, some of those charges are later reduced by prosecutors,” Kaishian said. “So this is really just people who are having those arrests happen.”

New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams, a Democrat, urged lawmakers Wednesday to make targeted amendments to the state’s bail laws to allow judges greater discretion in determining a defendants’ level of dangerousness — especially individuals accused of violent crimes with a firearm.

“I think we can tweak it and make it right and get what we’re desiring,” Adams said at a virtual budget hearing Wednesday.

Both parties remain strongly at odds about the safety of the system changes.

Accused criminal offenders who post bail are rearrested at higher rates, but some officials maintain the state’s 29% increase in homicides in 2020 is tied to bail reform.

Adams, a former state senator and New York City Police Department captain, told several lawmakers that the bail and discovery laws should be reviewed, to watch for a pattern of judges abusing the discretion, but could not name his specific, desired revisions for the statute or another U.S. state to model.

The law is expected to be an important topic of discussion as Adams prepares to meet with legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul prepares to release 30-day amendments to her proposed $216 billion executive budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, have maintained that revisiting the bail laws are not part of their legislative priorities for the 2022 session or as budget negotiations heat up for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“I’m certainly more than happy to discuss anything with the mayor,” Stewart-Cousins said on the topic Tuesday. “… There is certainly a broader conversation we can have about criminal justice reform — all kinds of reforms. Certainly, I want it to be very, very clear we are concerned, as everyone is, about the spike in crime.”

The leaders of the Senate and Assembly argue that the changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws have been successful in limiting the number of people languishing in jail without funds to post bail.

“We do not want to criminalize poverty,” the Senate leader said.

Hochul again this week declined to publicly reveal her stance on changing the state’s bail system this session, reiterating her refusal to negotiate important policy through the press.

The governor spoke with Heastie, Stewart-Cousins and several senators and assemblymembers about proposals in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget early this week.

“Those conversations continue,” Hochul said on the topic Wednesday at an unrelated press conference.

The governor plans to discuss the controversial criminal justice reforms with mayors and local leaders across the state as the joint legislative budget hearings continue through next week.

“It’s all processed into a larger conversation about what is right for the state of New York,” she said. “All of this will be resolved. Right now, this is information-gathering.”

“… There’s been very frequent and impactful conversations even this early in the budget process, so I feel good about what’s going to be the ultimate outcome,” she added.

The Legislature’s 2019 decision to limit pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies was intended to ensure equality in release regardless of socioeconomic status and reverse the trend of mass incarceration and more severe punishment of Black and Hispanic people — a disparity prevalent throughout U.S. and state prisons and courtrooms.

State discovery laws were also changed to prevent prosecutors from delaying the start of a trial without turning over evidence to the defense, increasing the likelihood a defendant would default to a plea deal to end lengthy or expensive court proceedings.

Legislative leaders look forward to speaking with Adams in private, at length, about his demands to alter the bail laws.

“He knows how this works — I’m sure he’ll be speaking to Speaker Heastie and myself soon,” Stewart-Cousins said.

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Some States Are Cloaking Prison COVID Data

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a public dashboard showing the status of COVID-19 in its prisons, including a tally of those who have died. Earlier this week, that number stood at 173 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

The dashboard links to a list of names that ends with the Jan. 19 death of a 69-year-old serving a life sentence for murder, leaving the impression that no one has died of COVID-19 at a state prison since then.

But that’s not the case. Two incarcerated patients died Oct. 6, bringing the total COVID-19 deaths in state prisons to 295, according to the Texas Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that collects its data from reports sent by corrections officials to the attorney general.

Why the state reports one set of numbers to the public and another to its attorney general isn’t clear, said Eva Ruth Moravec, executive director of the Texas Justice Initiative. “It says where their priority is. If it was important to be transparent with the public, it would be on the public-facing dashboard.”

Texas is not the only state that has failed to consistently report COVID-19 cases and deaths in state prisons, local jails and juvenile detention facilities. While most corrections systems have never provided a great deal of information about the spread of the virus in their institutions, lately it has gotten worse, researchers say.

At least a half-dozen states, including Florida and Georgia as well as Texas, provide even less information than they once did, according to researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles’ COVID Behind Bars Data Project, which collects and analyzes data on the pandemic in corrections settings.

In an online post in late August, the project noted that while prison reporting had been “plagued by deep inadequacies” since the start of the pandemic, corrections systems cut back even more on public data in recent months. This happened even though prisons, like nursing homes, have been particularly susceptible to deadly outbreaks of the virus.

Agencies “had begun to roll back basic data reporting on the impact of COVID-19 in their facilities,” the authors wrote of a trend they detected beginning last spring. They characterize the drift as “a deliberate cloaking of the reality on the ground.”









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How COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons Threatens Nearby Communities








States that have explained why they cut back on public data mostly say they stopped providing more detailed reports because of a decline in cases, even though they began making the change before this summer’s surge of the delta variant. Texas said its numbers are delayed because it waits for autopsy results, while Louisiana said the hours spent reporting data took time away from caring for patients.

The Behind Bars authors said the states have stopped publishing information on the number of cases, tests performed, deaths and vaccinations, both among inmates and staff. Some have stopped providing cumulative totals in those categories. Other researchers have found that hardly any prison systems publish demographic information, which would show the age, ethnicity and race of prison populations who have been the most vulnerable.

The UCLA project reported that in addition to Texas, prison systems in Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi also have cut back on information that they had earlier provided about COVID-19 in their prisons. It noted that Arkansas has never disclosed the number of incarcerated people who have died of the virus. Meanwhile, the project observed that, like Texas, all those states were especially hard hit by the delta variant this summer.

‘Sort of Gave Up’

“I think probably there is a disincentive for them to report because the worse the pandemic deaths, the more it will be used against them,” said Erika Tyagi, a senior data scientist with the Behind Bars Data Project. “I think they thought, why are we giving data that the public will use against us? It’s bleak, but they sort of gave up.” Tyagi said Massachusetts and Oklahoma also have cut back on data reporting since the project published.

The Florida Department of Corrections did not respond directly to Stateline questions about its data, but it defended its treatment of sick patients and said all prisoners are offered vaccines. However, earlier this summer, the department acknowledged to the Orlando Sentinel that as of June 2 it had stopped posting weekly reports on COVID-19 cases and deaths among inmates and staff, determining that it was no longer “operationally necessary.”

In July, the Georgia Department of Corrections announced it was no longer reporting COVID-19 data on its website, citing a downturn of cases at the time. “Should significant fluctuations occur in the status of COVID-19 cases with our facilities, the dashboard will be reinstated,” Joan Heath, a department spokesperson, wrote in an email to Stateline.

In Texas, the public list of names from corrections officials indicates that zero incarcerated people died of COVID-19 from January through this month—even though nearly half of the total COVID-19 deaths among all Texans happened in that same period, as the highly contagious delta variant was running amok.

In response to a query from Stateline about the discrepancies between the number of deaths reported by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the number reported by the Texas Justice Initiative, agency spokesperson Robert Hurst said deaths were counted on the dashboard only after an autopsy or physician determined COVID-19 was the cause of death.

In addition to 173 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, the dashboard includes 34 presumed COVID-19 deaths and 64 with a pending cause as of Oct. 25. Hurst did not say why there has been a long delay in making those determinations this year. Even if the cause of those deaths were ultimately determined to be related to COVID-19, the department’s total would be well short of the number of deaths tracked by the Texas Justice Initiative.

In an email Hurst wrote, “The notion that TDCJ is hiding inmate deaths is ludicrous.”









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COVID-19 Extends Sentences for Some Incarcerated People








Other researchers and advocates don’t accept that the state is simply waiting for autopsy results to disclose deaths.

“I don’t think anyone at all believes that,” said Michele Deitch, who runs the COVID, Corrections and Oversight Project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, which also tracks the reporting of COVID-19 data in prisons nationwide. “I think they’ve just stopped updating their numbers on the dashboard.”

Texas is not an outlier in terms of the amount of data it reports about COVID-19 in state prisons, Deitch said. Her team published a report in March showing that few states provide much data publicly. Only a handful of states received grades as high as B for their state prison reporting—California, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Most scored C’s and D’s. Because many states have cut back on their reporting since the scorecard was published, Deitch said many would now receive a failing grade.

As poor as the study found state prison data reporting, it concluded that transparency is even worse in city and county jails and in juvenile detention facilities. Hardly any COVID-19 information is available from those institutions, according to the report. Prison experts say data collection from jails and juvenile facilities is complicated by the higher rate of turnover in those institutions and a lack of resources. Deitch said jails also are generally subject to less oversight than state prisons.

The UCLA project also gave states letter grades based on the transparency of their COVID-19 state prison data. Nearly all of them scored D’s or F’s.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and others in Congress proposed a bill last year that would have required states as well as the federal government to collect and publicly report COVID-19 data from the prison systems they operate. The bill didn’t advance.

Corrections Dashboards

Some prison experts initially were surprised and pleased that within months of the pandemic’s onset, many state corrections systems began producing dashboards with at least some information about the progress of the virus in their prisons.

“Of course they should have, but the fact that they did it was particularly surprising in light of the fact that they typically don’t report much data about what happens inside,” Deitch said.

That’s why the recent rollback in information is so disappointing now, she said. Some prison systems probably thought the pandemic was over when they started curtailing the flow of information, Deitch said. But she also thinks some simply wanted to avoid scrutiny.

“A lot of this is that they felt they were being called out for the extensive spread of COVID in their facilities and extensive deaths, and many felt they could cut out the criticism by being less transparent with their data,” she said. 

But critics said that thinking is short-sighted. Having complete and timely information, they say, would help officials track the progress of the disease and determine which efforts are most effective in combatting it. Demographic information would enable them to better protect vulnerable populations.









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COVID Froze Prison Visits, Spotlighting High Cost of Phone Calls








The data also is relevant to those outside facilities: to legislators and other watchdogs as well as surrounding communities, which, studies have found, can face higher levels of infections when there are severe outbreaks in corrections facilities. It also would help relatives of incarcerated people understand the risks facing their loved ones.

“The practical reality is the virus does not stop at the prison walls or jail doors,” said Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “You have staff going in and out of these facilities every day.” That gives the surrounding neighborhoods good reason to want to know what is going on with the virus behind the prison’s walls, she said.

The lack of transparency diminishes faith that corrections officials are effectively responding to the pandemic in those institutions, said Andrea Armstrong, a prison expert and professor at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. “Part of the value of publishing extensive data is assurance to the public and families of inmates that they are examining these trends and keeping on top of the infection and actively working to reduce outbreaks when they occur.”

Louisiana in July stripped down its prison COVID-19 dashboard to just the current number of active cases among staff and inmates at each prison. Before then, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections had published the number of people who had died from the virus and the cumulative number of cases.

Natalie LaBorde, executive counsel in the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the state cut back on the information in part because the staff was too busy providing care to spend time collecting and reporting data. “That was adding two to three hours a day just reporting up to us,” taking away from time giving patient care to prisoners, she said.

Department spokesperson Ken Pastorick also said that in the two months before the department reduced the information provided, there had been only five new cases of COVID-19 among all prisoners. And, he said, the department was collecting all the data and could provide it upon request.

“That’s not what transparency means,” said Deitch in an email responding to Louisiana’s approach. “Most people don’t know how to request that information or are even aware that they could do so.”

She said policymakers, researchers and family members should be able to see the data in real time on a dashboard. “They don’t need to be jumping through hoops.”

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Albany lawmakers continue to clash over editing state bail, discovery laws | Top Story

ALBANY — New campaigns to fight misinformation about the state’s criminal justice reforms grew louder this week in an attempt to steer a politically saturated debate over the need to edit the state’s bail and discovery laws.

Legislative leaders in Albany are expected to continue discussions next week about the need to revisit the state’s 2019 changes to its cash bail system as top state leaders remain at odds over the need to amend reforms rolled back in 2020.

Policy experts with project Justice Not Fear, launched by media and education initiative Zealous, work to refute misleading reports and statements on the state’s bail laws as officials — especially members of law enforcement and campaigning Republicans — tie the 2019 changes to a double-digit increase in homicides and violent crimes across the state seen since 2020.

“Ninety-eight percent of people released pretrial have not been rearrested for any felony that’s classified as violent that includes charges like simple possession of a weapon, even though there is no harm to a person alleged it’s still a violent felony offense,” said MK Kaishian, a civil rights attorney and legal policy and justice advocacy fellow for Zealous.

About 2% of the rough total 183,000 New Yorkers released before their trial without bail were rearrested for a violent crime, according to state Office of Court Administration data.

“Some of those cases are later dismissed, some of those charges are later reduced by prosecutors,” Kaishian said. “So this is really just people who are having those arrests happen.”

New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams, a Democrat, urged lawmakers Wednesday to make targeted amendments to the state’s bail laws to allow judges greater discretion in determining a defendants’ level of dangerousness — especially individuals accused of violent crimes with a firearm.

“I think we can tweak it and make it right and get what we’re desiring,” Adams said at a virtual budget hearing Wednesday.

Both parties remain strongly at odds about the safety of the system changes.

Accused criminal offenders who post bail are rearrested at higher rates, but some officials maintain the state’s 29% increase in homicides in 2020 is tied to bail reform.

Adams, a former state senator and New York City Police Department captain, told several lawmakers that the bail and discovery laws should be reviewed, to watch for a pattern of judges abusing the discretion, but could not name his specific, desired revisions for the statute or another U.S. state to model.

The law is expected to be an important topic of discussion as Adams prepares to meet with legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul prepares to release 30-day amendments to her proposed $216 billion executive budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, have maintained that revisiting the bail laws are not part of their legislative priorities for the 2022 session or as budget negotiations heat up for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“I’m certainly more than happy to discuss anything with the mayor,” Stewart-Cousins said on the topic Tuesday. “… There is certainly a broader conversation we can have about criminal justice reform — all kinds of reforms. Certainly, I want it to be very, very clear we are concerned, as everyone is, about the spike in crime.”

The leaders of the Senate and Assembly argue that the changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws have been successful in limiting the number of people languishing in jail without funds to post bail.

“We do not want to criminalize poverty,” the Senate leader said.

Hochul again this week declined to publicly reveal her stance on changing the state’s bail system this session, reiterating her refusal to negotiate important policy through the press.

The governor spoke with Heastie, Stewart-Cousins and several senators and assemblymembers about proposals in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget early this week.

“Those conversations continue,” Hochul said on the topic Wednesday at an unrelated press conference.

The governor plans to discuss the controversial criminal justice reforms with mayors and local leaders across the state as the joint legislative budget hearings continue through next week.

“It’s all processed into a larger conversation about what is right for the state of New York,” she said. “All of this will be resolved. Right now, this is information-gathering.”

“… There’s been very frequent and impactful conversations even this early in the budget process, so I feel good about what’s going to be the ultimate outcome,” she added.

The Legislature’s 2019 decision to limit pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies was intended to ensure equality in release regardless of socioeconomic status and reverse the trend of mass incarceration and more severe punishment of Black and Hispanic people — a disparity prevalent throughout U.S. and state prisons and courtrooms.

State discovery laws were also changed to prevent prosecutors from delaying the start of a trial without turning over evidence to the defense, increasing the likelihood a defendant would default to a plea deal to end lengthy or expensive court proceedings.

Legislative leaders look forward to speaking with Adams in private, at length, about his demands to alter the bail laws.

“He knows how this works — I’m sure he’ll be speaking to Speaker Heastie and myself soon,” Stewart-Cousins said.

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Detroit’s prison population will soon be stuck living next to a toxic site

“It felt all too real,” Siwatu-Salama Ra said from her home in Detroit, Michigan. Her lifelong struggles against two injustices plaguing her community — pollution and incarceration — had become fused in a surreal way.

Three years ago, Ra, a world-renowned environmental justice organizer, lay shackled to a hospital bed. Since her childhood, she had followed in the footsteps of her mother, Rhonda Anderson, fighting for environmental justice in her neighborhood — a commitment that led to her representing her city during the 2015 United Nations climate talks in France. But in 2018, Ra, pregnant with her second child, was sentenced to prison for waving an unloaded gun at someone during a dispute. 

It was there, facing the prospect of giving birth in a women’s correctional facility outside Detroit, that she learned a new jail was being built to incarcerate her son’s generation, too. This time it would sit in the shadow of the largest trash incinerator in Michigan, and one of the largest in the country. 

Siwatu-Salama Ra speaks at an environmental rally.
Shadia Fayne Wood / Survival Media

For three decades, Detroit Renewable Power had burned 3,000 tons of trash every day, emitting dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead into the atmosphere, contaminating surrounding neighborhoods. Ra had spent years fighting to close the toxic site. Between 2013 and 2018, the incinerator racked up more than 750 citations for exceeding pollution emissions standards from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, or MDEQ. And, according to a local environmental law center, the incinerator violated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act over a hundred times, as well. Data from the EPA and MDEQ shows that the facility is located in one of Wayne County’s worst neighborhoods for air pollution — a community that is also 76 percent people of color and 71 percent low-income. 

After being released, Ra and her colleagues succeeded in getting the incinerator shut down in 2019. The closure doesn’t completely eliminate the environmental threat, however: Studies have shown that contaminants emitted during waste incineration have the ability to infiltrate surrounding soil and groundwater, with impacts that persist for years even after a site is closed. Now, Detroit officials say a new jail complex is needed to address safety concerns in the city’s aging jails, as well as save on maintenance costs. But the city’s plan to construct the Wayne County Criminal Justice Center across the street from the old Detroit Renewable Power incinerator will force up to 2,400 incarcerated people to live in close proximity to the facility’s toxic legacy. 

While trash is no longer being burned on-site, Detroit Renewable Power is still operating as a solid waste transfer station, taking in 1,000 tons of waste per day. Transfer waste stations are known to emit odors, cause noise, attract rodents, and cause air emissions both from unloading dry and dusty waste and increased traffic in the immediate neighborhood.   

Down the street from the new jail site, just beyond the recently shuttered incinerator, is a hazardous waste treatment plant known to fill the air with a “rotting fish” smell, which over the past six years has itself received more than 20 pollution violations from the MDEQ, now called the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The waste treatment plant’s violations are primarily for pungent odors released into the neighborhood, but also for dust and soot emissions beyond state limits. Local residents say the emissions often make simply being outside unbearable. The jail site is also right next to I-75, a major highway, adding another source of noise and air pollution that inmates will be exposed to. 

An aerial map of various sites around Wayne County Criminal Justice Center in Detroit, Michigan
Grist / Google Earth

Construction of the Wayne County Criminal Justice Center, located off East Warren Avenue, is expected to be completed in 2022. 

“Living in Detroit has given me a deep understanding that fights against the prison system and police are also fights against poverty and pollution,” Ra told Grist.

The close ties between incarceration and pollution seen in Detroit are replicated across the United States. A recent Grist analysis found that the nation’s three largest jail systems — Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago — have facilities disproportionately located in areas where there are elevated risks for pollution-related cancer, respiratory hazards, diesel pollution exposure, and proximity to toxic wastewater and hazardous waste. According to the EPA, those incarcerated within the new Wayne County Criminal Justice Center will be exposed to more diesel pollution and situated closer to hazardous waste than 90 percent of the country. 

“Detroit doesn’t deserve to have a new jail built,” Ra said. “But this is what the prison industrial complex does: A new jail right in front of our faces, right across from the busiest highway in the city, next to what was one of the largest incinerators in the world, and of course down the street from an elementary school.”

The jail’s location on Detroit’s east side within a heavily polluted area wasn’t in the original plans. The project, which first got underway in 2011, was initially slated to be built in downtown Detroit, close to public transit. But after the city ran over-budget on the jail, construction paused. Officials made a deal with Dan Gilbert, co-founder of Quicken Loans, a company accused of fraudulent lending, and founder of Bedrock, a real estate business (both of which fall under Gilbert’s parent company, Rock Venture, which includes over 100 other affiliated businesses). The deal was that Gilbert would receive the original downtown jail site in return for providing funding to continue the project at a new location on Detroit’s east side, and that Bedrock would manage the construction of the facility.

as seen through a fence, a construction site with a pair of tall concrete pillars and a lot overgrown with weeds
The original site of the new Wayne County jail in downtown Detroit, as seen here in 2014. The project was later moved to a new location on the city’s east side. Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

This arrangement underscores the way that environmental and criminal justice have become entangled in the new Wayne County Criminal Justice Center: It’s being funded in part by a private investor, Gilbert, who has been charged with gentrifying Detroit — the Blackest large city in America — and displacing residents in the process, as apartment buildings across the city were forcibly vacated for redevelopment. “Never before has a private entity held so much influence in a major American city as Rock Ventures holds in Detroit,” Business Insider declared in 2018, “and no one in the private sector is as powerful as Gilbert.”

According to city officials, the jail will save taxpayers money in the long run and is needed to improve safety for those incarcerated. The new complex will replace three existing prison facilities that are spread across the city, a setup that requires inmates be transported from the jail to the courtroom for every legal appearance. The new centralized Wayne County jail will have a court on-site so that those awaiting trial will walk to court, rather than being driven. From the consolidation of the buildings and the resulting decrease in building maintenance and staffing costs, the new jail is expected to save taxpayers $10 million to $20 million annually.

Additionally, the aging buildings have been plagued by safety concerns stemming from issues like malfunctioning heating and air conditioning, as well as deteriorating ceilings and plumbing leaks. In the city’s view, it’s a humane and cost-effective investment. (One estimate, however, indicates that it would cost the county a total of just $18 million to $22 million to do major repairs on the existing jails, compared to almost $600 million to build the new complex.) 

Environmental justice organizers argue the money could be better spent elsewhere. “Instead of putting forward hundreds of millions of dollars into prisons, we should be putting hundreds of millions of dollars into schools,” said Michelle Martinez, executive director of the nonprofit Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. Detroit’s public schools are notorious for environmental health hazards like periodically unsafe drinking water, as well as mold and heating and cooling issues. 

A new distribution utility plant will also be built to service the new jail — another $35 million the county will pay for. The plant will get its power from DTE Energy’s mix of energy sources, nearly half of which comes from coal, 21 percent from nuclear, and 17 percent from natural gas. “A jail and a [utility] plant are two shining examples of the kind of future that we don’t need,” said Martinez. “We should be moving away from fossil fuels at all costs.” 


The project’s long, convoluted journey to fruition illuminates the uneasiness that many Detroiters feel around the new jail facility. 

With Detroit’s aging jails’ maintenance costs rising, the Wayne County Commission secured $300 million in 2010 to build a new, centralized jail in downtown Detroit. Construction began just a year later. But within two years, work on the project came to a halt when Detroit hit financial troubles and filed for bankruptcy, facing $18 billion in debt. At that point, Wayne County had already spent more than $120 million on the half-built jail. The project then sat on hold for the next six years, costing Detroit taxpayers $1.2 million each month in service costs, a storage space lease, and interest and principal payments on the bonds. 

In 2018, Gilbert and Wayne County struck a deal: Gilbert would receive the downtown site of the half-built jail for $21.3 million, as well as several other nearby plots for free (a total of 13 acres), in exchange for paying at least $153 million to finance the building of the jail at a different location in east Detroit, and for his own company, Rock Ventures, to actually construct the new facility. 

Work on the east side location began in 2019. The project is now halfway done. The $533 million dollar facility, already over budget by $40 million, will house the sheriff’s office, a 2,200-bed adult jail, a 160-bed juvenile center, the circuit court, and the county prosecutor’s office. Over the last few years, Detroit residents have protested the new jail and its role in handing Gilbert more land in central Detroit to add to his more than 100 other downtown properties.

The city agreed to move the jail because they needed Gilbert’s help financing the project — without which finishing the complex would’ve been “seriously difficult” and any other option would have been “extraordinarily more expensive,” Wayne County Commissioner Timothy Killeen told MLive. A local real estate expert, Colliers International Inc., estimated the value of the properties Gilbert obtained in the deal to be worth between $61 million and $84 million, if the properties were to be leveled and used for parking. At the new jail, Gilbert will receive up to $30 million in parking revenue as a part of the deal. 

Detroit residents, community leaders, and environmentalists have raised concerns about the new location of the jail since its announcement, citing its proximity to a hotbed of industrial pollution, taxpayers taking on additional debt to finance the jail, and the inconvenience for visitors and criminal justice officials since the District Court will still be located downtown. 

Despite multiple interview requests to the Wayne County Executive Office and Wayne County Commissioners, no one from the county was able to confirm whether or not an environmental impact statement or assessment was conducted before building the jail. 

The jail is just one of several deals between Gilbert, the city, and the state of Michigan that local residents have called into question. 

In one instance, the city’s Downtown Development Authority sold Rock Ventures a downtown land parcel for just $1. The Michigan Strategic Fund then approved $618 million in tax incentives for Rock Ventures for multi-use downtown development on the property. Michigan’s largest commercial mortgage banking firm, Bernard Financial Group, said the project couldn’t have happened without the tax incentives.

An investigation by The Detroit News found that Gilbert-owned Quicken Loans, which is headquartered in Detroit, had the fifth-highest number of mortgages that ended in foreclosure in the city between 2005 and 2015. Half of those properties are now blighted. In 2015, the federal government sued the company for approving hundreds of mortgages that didn’t meet federal standards. (Quicken ultimately agreed to a $32.5 million settlement of the suit without admitting wrongdoing.)

Rock Ventures and Gilbert declined to comment on the record about why Rock Ventures got involved with the publicly funded project or respond to claims that Rock Ventures has contributed to gentrification in Detroit. They pointed Grist toward a $500 million investment by the Gilbert Family Foundation in Detroit as an example of Gilbert’s commitment to the city. The first phase of this investment initiative, $15 million, will pay off property tax debt owed by 20,000 low-income homeowners. 

Casey Rocheteau, communications manager at the Detroit Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that unsuccessfully sued the county to block construction of the jail in 2018, told Grist that the placement of the facility in an industrial area was a deliberate move with effects on already marginalized communities.

“They replaced the incinerator with this carceral facility, so instead of this area just being affected by literal pollution, now people [also] have to deal with this emotional, mental, and psychological pollution caused by the jail,” they said. Rocheteau says the placement of the jail next to the city’s main freeway creates “a public spectacle of making sure people know [the county] is keeping the ‘criminal elements’ away from them, while they enjoy downtown or go to a Tigers game.”

Although the new jail has 671 fewer beds than the county’s current facilities, Wayne County’s incarcerated population has been on a downtrend for years, which advocates say highlights the need for even smaller facilities. In February 2020, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 1,400 people were incarcerated in Wayne County, with that number dropping to 800 as the coronavirus began its spread in April, prompting the county to release everyone except those charged with felonies

According to an analysis by the Vera Institute of Justice, a national research and activism lab that advocated for the mass release of Wayne County jail detainees at the height of the pandemic, more than half of all Wayne County jail bookings in 2018 and 2019 were for lower-level criminal and civil offenses. Charges related to petty offenses like suspended licenses, registrations, or failing to have car insurance were the most common charges for people locked inside the jail during that time. More than half of the people incarcerated inside the county’s jails were detained pre-trial, meaning they were unable to afford bail and subsequently left incarcerated without ever being convicted of a crime.

Rocheteau says these statistics underscore the hasty decision by the county to build the new justice complex when jail populations could be lowered by investing in social services and toxic remediation for communities living amongst industrial waste, rather than in a new jail. Several studies show that communities with better-maintained environments and public health investments are less likely to have high incarceration rates. Detroit currently spends 10 times more on police than it does on health care and public health programs. In 2019, Wayne County allocated just $10 million out of its $1.5 billion budget for youth services, community development, and environmental programs combined, compared to $311 million it spent on courts, jails, and the county sheriff.

“There is the ability to drastically reduce the population of people in the Wayne County jail system while maintaining public safety and investing in the key concerns that would make our communities safe from all forms of harm, environmental harm included,” Rocheteau said.


Since 2018, the No New Jails Detroit coalition — of which both the Detroit Justice Center and Ra’s organization, the Freedom Team, are members — has led a divestment campaign in attempts to block the construction of the Wayne County Criminal Justice Center. Instead of spending money on the new justice complex, the group has instead outlined investments that would be possible using the same money allocated for the jail: 30 new restorative justice centers, renovating and modernizing all Detroit public schools, or housing every homeless person in Detroit. But at this point, with the new justice center nearing completion, it’s about continuing the “generational fight,” according to Ra. 

Protesters marched to rally against Wayne County spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new jail in downtown Detroit.
Steve Neavling

“This is going to be the work of our children’s children. We’re planting the seeds to show that our communities deserve better, that majority-Black Detroit deserves better.” Fighting the construction of the jail, although unsuccessful in one sense, was a victory for the organizers of Detroit, Ra says. Community leaders are beginning to connect all aspects of public health and the environment at the center of struggles for justice — and will continue to do so.

“Detroit will be one of those cities that will lead our fight for freedom and survival — connecting the environmental justice movement, decarceration, defunding the police, clean water, and better food for everyone,” she said. “Our perspective from fighting for freedom with the jail will forever be applied to all of the ways that we envision ourselves and what it means to be healthy and free.”


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U.S. Immigration Detention System: “A Living Hell”

In mid-September 2020, Dawn Wooten, a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging dangerous medical practices at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. According to The Intercept, which first broke the story, Irwin had “underreported Covid-19 cases, knowingly placed staff and detainees at risk of contracting the virus, neglected medical complaints, and refused to test symptomatic detainees, among other dangerous practices.”

Wooten also disclosed that immigrant women held at the facility underwent surgical procedures without having consented to or having been informed of them. Several detainees reported that they had their uteruses removed in this way.

These shocking revelations form part of investigative journalist Seth Freed Wessler’s gripping documentary, The Facility. The film starkly reveals the inhumanity and oppression at the center of the immigrant detention system. Two other recent works also investigate this topic, including historian Jessica Ordaz’s book, The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity; and “Cruel By Design: Voices Against Immigration Detention,” a new report just released by  the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Together, the three works demonstrate the ability of the detained to subvert mechanisms of control, to chip away at the walls and fences that surround them, while highlighting the need for abolitionist thinking and action.

Inside the Detention Centers

Wessler’s documentary, the production of which began in early 2020, premiered this past December. The short film provides an often-painful look at life inside two facilities, Irwin and, to a lesser extent, Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.

The movie features two detainees, one of whom is Andrea Manrique. At 34 years of age when the filming begins, Manrique is an asylum-seeker from Colombia.  “A living hell” is how she describes her life in Irwin.

The Facility follows Manrique over several months as she meets with her immigration lawyer (by videolink) and is constantly frustrated by the lack of progress on her case.

“It’s like a prison sentence,” she says about her detention while wiping away tears at one such meeting. “Except I don’t know when I’m leaving. At least prisoners know when they’ll be leaving.”

Nilson Barahona, originally from Honduras, is the other detainee featured. Barahona has been living in the United States since 1999, and he is married to a U.S. citizen with whom he has a child.

Barahona calls his son as often as possible, but he fears that the separation is fraying their ties. He recounts how during a recent call his son said, “’Daddy, can we speak in English please?’” Barahona goes on to tearfully explain, “Speaking Spanish was our thing. It was a bond that we have. I just feel like I’m losing that bond.”

This film is composed largely of recordings of pay-per-minute video calls. These, as well as the words and images that the viewer hears and sees on a television screen mounted on a wall in the Irwin cellblock—and the very filming of the documentary itself—give the 26-minute documentary somewhat of a surreal feel. They also show how the detention center is far from isolated from the world outside. It is through a Spanish-language television news report, for example, that Irwin detainees learn about the first positive Covid case in the facility.  These technologies of connection, along with the creativity of detainees, reveal the permeability of walls, literal and figurative, within and around the facility.

An Expanding System

Such linkages are not limited to life at Irwin, as demonstrated by Jessica Ordaz’s illuminating book. In The Shadow of El Centro (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021), Ordaz tells the story of the El Centro Immigration Detention Center over its 69-years of existence. In so doing, she insists that, although immigration detention is not officially framed as punishment—detainees, because they are held under civil law, are not classified as criminals and thus not subject to criminal penalties—it functions in a punitive fashion. While the very incarceration of migrants is an example of such, violence of various sorts permeates the detention system. And it always has, asserts Ordaz.

When it opened in 1945, El Centro Detention Camp (located in the small city of El Centro in southern California’s Imperial Valley) held only 100 men and was intended as temporary. When the much bigger El Centro Immigration Detention Center closed on September 30, 2014, it had 588 detainees and 428 employees.

The El Centro facility’s size at the time of its closure is indicative of how the immigration detention system has grown over several decades, especially over the last 25 years. This growth, assert the authors of “Cruel by Design” is the product of “a punitive, racist, and xenophobic political climate combined with massive government funding.” Today, the United States has the world’s largest immigration detention system, which holds up to fifty thousand people a day. On average, in 2020, the daily number of detainees was 33,724; in 1994, the figure was 6,785.

Increased Federal Funding and Facilities

The IDP-CCR report situates the detention system within a broader system of migration control, while showing how immigration laws are designed to make it as easy as possible to detain and deport people. Through interviews with former detainees, including Barahona, and court documents from people fighting for release, it also highlights how the detention system thrives by employing tactics intended to break people’s spirits and to undermine their ability to fight deportation.

In addition to the human costs of the system, the monetary ones are high, according to the report. In fiscal year 2020 alone, the United States spent more than $3 billion on immigrant detention. The much larger budget for immigration and border policing as a whole totaled $23.2 billion in 2019. This amount exceeds the military budgets of Canada, Israel, Spain, and Turkey. And there’s no sign of change on the horizon: the Biden administration’s 2021 budget request calls for $2.8 billion for immigrant detention. This is more than three times the amount the Department of Homeland Security (of which ICE is part) spent on detention in 2005.

What the CCR-IDP report characterizes as “a sprawling network of facilities” is a hodgepodge of institutions. The ICE detention system includes “facilities that have contracts with private prison companies, county and city jails, and state prisons.” In the case of Irwin County Detention Center and Stewart Detention Center, they are both privately owned, for-profit facilities, the former owned and operated by Lasalle Corrections, the latter by CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America).

A Legacy of Mistreatment

While private facilities may seem especially prone to abuse—not least because they have a financial incentive to deny resources to detainees—maltreatment seems to have long been the rule across facilities. In the 1940s, for example, forced labor was common at El Centro.

“From the start,” Ordaz reveals, “Mexican migrants were used in constructing and maintaining the El Centro Immigration Detention Camp.” At the same time, immigration authorities would farm out labor to private interests in exchanges for services. Ordaz gives the example of one contractor who “provided the Border Patrol with carpenters, bricklayers, and plasterers in exchange for the labor of unauthorized Mexican men who could dig ditches for the sewer and water lines and clean up his yard.”

In the 1970s, a Mexican journalist went undercover as a prisoner at El Centro. He reported insufficient food rations, a facility so crowded that some detainees were compelled to sleep on the floor, and a lack of medical care. Ordaz quotes U.S. Representative Edward Roybal, a Democrat representing Los Angeles, characterizing immigration centers in general “as fit only to house dog food.”

On May 27, 1985, 15 detainees, representing a diverse set of countries of birth, launched a hunger strike to protest the conditions that reigned within the facility. The action would grow to include a few hundred detainees. That detainees successfully worked across differences of nationality reflects the “shared experience of rightlessness within the carceral system that fostered solidarity among the detained men.”  The consciousness and organizing skills needed to carry out the protest manifests a “transnational migrant politics,” suggests Ordaz. It is one that “emerged from struggles that surpassed the detention center’s fences and took place beyond the nation’s borders.”

Such resistance is hardly unique to detainees in El Centro. On April 12, 2020, five women detainees at Irwin, Andrea Manrique among them, also protested. One of their boyfriends on the outside recorded the women as they spoke about the dangerous conditions in the facility and their fear that they would contract Covid-19. Spanish-language television soon broadcast the video, which was also distributed by social media and posted on Youtube.

In the video, the women express their fear of reprisals for publicly speaking out. And their fears were well-founded. According to the IDP-CCR report, reprisals— including physical abuse, transfers to other facilities, solitary confinement, and deportation—for protesting unjust conditions in U.S. detention facilities are common. As Manrique reported to Wessler while showing him bruises she incurred on her arm, she and the other women were violently dragged into punishment cells, where they were held for at least two weeks.

Around the same time of the video, men in the facility protested as well, demanding the release of vulnerable detainees and increased protections from the coronavirus. A number of them went on strike by refusing to work in the kitchen, laundry room, or the commissary. And five detainees, including Nilson Barahona, went on a hunger strike. Soon thereafter, ICE transferred Barahona to Stewart Detention Center.

Reflecting the arbitrary nature of detention, ICE released both Manrique and Barahona—without warning or explanation—on November 20, 2020, allowing them to rejoin their families. Both of the former detainees, the documentary shows, are now active in supporting those still locked behind the walls of the detention system.

A Violent Core

Ultimately, The Facility, Ordaz’s book and the IDP-CCR report all suggest that the business of immigrant detention has little if anything to do with protection against threats.

What explains the detention system for Jessica Ordaz is that it is a key component of “the continuity of anti migrant violence,” with violence “at the core of its essence.”As a result, she believes that the system is beyond reform and thus invites the readerto imagine and work toward a world without cages.”

Similarly, for the authors of the IDP-CCR report, the “cruelty and harshness” of the detention system are a symptom of a larger disease, one at the heart of the border and immigration policing apparatus. It’s about “denying liberty, discouraging people from fighting to stay, deterring people from migrating and returning.” As such, “ending the immigration detention, deportation and border policing regimes is the only way forward.”

As Andrea Manrique and Nilson Barahona—and countless others—demonstrate, the authors write, “people currently in detention, and those who have survived it, are already leading the way.”


Joseph Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College. His latest book (co-authored with Suren Moodliar and Eleni Macrakis) is A People’s Guide to Greater Boston (University of California Press, 2020).

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