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Faith Leaders Denounce Private Prison’s Use of Chaplain to Whitewash Record of Abuse #ShutDownStewart #ExposeandClose

January 12, 2015


Photo By: Steve Pavey


Monday, 12 January 2014

CONTACT: Brett Abrams :

Faith Leaders Denounce Private Prison’s Use of Chaplain to Whitewash Record of Abuse

Open Letter to Corrections Corporation of America Laments the Use of Staff Chaplain to Hide Treatment of Immigrants Detained at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia

GEORGIA — In December, faith leaders and immigration activists from around the country were strongly disappointed to read an op-ed titled “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” penned by Corrections Corporation of America chaplain, Rev. Joseph Shields, and published in The Hill as a response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani.   In response, faith leaders have addressed an open letter to Rev. Joseph Shields and the Corrections Corporation of America, calling on the corporation and the facility’s chaplain to “stand on spiritual authority, alongside the unjustly detained children of God, and against any actor, who dehumanizes, commodifies or mistreats those entrusted to his spiritual care, including his employer.”


Advocates from Georgia Detention Watch in conjunction with faith leaders across the country argue that Rev. Joseph Shields, as representative of the Corrections Corporation of America, presented a grossly inaccurate portrayal of the conditions at the Stewart Detention Center in southern Georgia, and attempted to use his religious title to whitewash the facility’s historic record of abuses towards immigrants detained solely for civil proceedings.

The open letter, addressed to the Corrections Corporation of America, and signed by faith leaders argues that “perhaps the greatest disservice perpetuated by the detention facility’s spiritual spokesperson is that he attempts to silence the growing voice of dissent coming directly from inside the belly of the very place where he is called to minister to the suffering, not defend the powerful.”

The letter goes on to explain that, “…the conditions at Stewart are far from safe or humane. Those detained are speaking out and nonviolently resisting. Through direct interviews, correspondence and limited media coverage, we continue to hear of detained immigrants at Stewart condemning such degradations as the use of solitary confinement, denial of contact visits, lack of basic hygiene, inadequate mental and medical healthcare, insufficient and sometimes inedible food, substantial burdening of their religious liberty, and a coercive labor program, where the corporation gets the detained immigrants to perform labor for 1 to 4 dollars a day. Immigrants who file a grievance about their treatment are likely to face retaliation from the guards.”



For interviews with immigration advocates or faith leaders, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at

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