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Texas Groups Oppose new GEO Group Immigration Detention Center

December 14, 2010

via Bob Libal, (512) 971-0487, blibal(at)grassrootsleadership.org

Civil Rights Groups Call on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Karnes County to Reject Private Detention Center

AUSTIN – Texans United for Families and Grassroots Leadership, two civil rights organizations, today called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Karnes County to reject an Intergovernmental Service Agreement to construct a new 600-bed for-profit immigration detention center in Karnes City, Texas.  The groups will speak in opposition to the proposed detention center at the Karnes County Commission meeting Tuesday, December 14th, at 9:00 am at the Karnes County Courthouse.

GEO Group, the private prison company that will build and operate the facility, has a track record of abuse, deaths in custody, and mismanagement at their Texas prisons and detention centers which have led to several lawsuits. Just last week, the GEO Group – along with Reeves County and the Federal Bureau of Prisons – was sued on behalf of the family of Jesus Manual Galindo, an immigrant who died at the GEO Group’s Reeves County Detention Center after he was put in isolation and not provided medication to control seizures.  Galindo’s death was the 9th death at the Reeves County detention center in recent years.

“Karnes County is setting itself up for a potential lawsuit if it enters into a contract with a troubled for-profit prison company known for human rights violations,” said Geoff Valdes, a Texans United for Families member. In addition to last week’s Reeves lawsuit, Val Verde County was sued due to the death of an immigrant prisoner at its GEO Group detention center.

The GEO Group has had at least six contracts in Texas ended in recent years. The suicides of Idaho prisoners Scot Noble Payne and Randy McCullough and subsequent investigations into “squalid” conditions led to the closure of GEO’s Dickens County and Bill Clayton detention centers. In 2007, the GEO Group-run Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shuttered by the Texas Youth Commission after a damning investigation into conditions at the youth detention center.

“Karnes County has not even had a discussion or a public hearing on the implications of entering into a long-term agreement with a company like GEO,” said Rocío Villalobos of Texans United for Families.  “The Karnes County Commission should delay any move until a full investigation into the impacts of such a contract can be completed. The history of human rights violations at for-profit detention centers demonstrates that immigration detention will never be ‘civil’ and endangers human lives.”

A year ago, ICE announced sweeping reforms to its immigration detention system and a desire to move away from contracts with isolated detention centers.  The Karnes County immigration detention center was announced last week as a “civil” detention center for low-level immigration detainees.

“No matter how soft the detention center, people who should not be locked-up are being detained for profit. We call on ICE to prioritize release and community-based alternatives to detention that allow people to remain in their communities awaiting their hearings,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. “These programs are proven to be more humane and less costly.”

Also see the Texas Civil Rights Review

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