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via @Grassroots_News: Call for Closure of Polk County Detention Center

April 4, 2013

Human Rights Groups Call for Closure of Polk County Detention Center

 For Immediate Release

Contact: Piper Madison or Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 499-8111

grlAustin, TX – Today, a coalition of 37 national and Texas-based organizations released a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano calling for the closure of the IAH Secure Adult Detention Center in Polk County, Texas.  The coalition represents a broad range of interests, including faith, civil rights, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform organizations.

The Polk County Detention Center is run by for-profit private prison company Community Education Center and houses what immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The letter to Secretary Napolitano is part of an ongoing campaign to close the Polk County Detention Center, which has been highlighted for its record of civil and human rights violations.

In November 2012, the Polk County Detention Center was included as one of the ten detention centers highlighted as amongst the worst in the nation by the Detention Watch Network based on the findings of a tour of the facility.

At the time of the tour, conducted by Texans United for Families and Grassroots Leadership, conditions at the facility were extremely poor: men spent up to 21-23 hours a day in cramped cells without privacy or natural light; received inadequate food and medical care; and were isolated from their families and legal aid because of distance and high phone costs.  In December 2012, over 100 community members from Houston and Austin held a vigil outside the facility protesting the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants.

Closing the Polk County Detention Center would represent a move towards a more humane immigration system.  It would also be fiscally responsible.  Last year, ICE spent $2 billion maintaining 34,000 beds at $160 a day; alternatives to detention can cost as little as $14 a day while allowing immigrants to remain with their families, rather than the far costlier maintenance in detention centers.

Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, says that “ICE should close the Polk County Detention Center today and prioritize release of immigrants into community support programs that are far less damaging to families and less costly.”

Signatories include Grassroots Leadership; Catholic Charities of Central Texas; Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association; the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church in Society; Detention Watch Network; and the Texas Civil Rights Project.  View the letter and a complete list of signatories here.

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