Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ACLU of Texas Condemns Reported Sexual Abuse at Hutto Facility

Disturbing Allegations Underscore Urgent Need for Reform

Contact: Jose Medina, Media Coordinator, ACLU of Texas, (512) 478-7300 x 103; jmedina@aclutx.org

AUSTIN – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas is deeply disturbed about reports that female detainees held at the T. Don Hutto Detention Facility in Taylor, Texas were sexually abused by a guard employed by the Corrections Corporation of America, a private for-profit prison management company that operates the facility under contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The women were reportedly groped while they were patted down, and at least one woman was reportedly propositioned for sex.

“The continued occurrence of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities demonstrates the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively in implementing reforms like improving detention standards, strengthening federal oversight of private providers like GEO and CCA, or better yet, eliminating the use of contract providers altogether,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas.

In recent years guards have been accused of assaults of women at a number of immigrant detention facilities in Texas. Also at Hutto, another CCA guard was fired in May 2007 after he was discovered having sex with a detainee in her cell. In 2008, a guard employed by another private prison provider, GEO, at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall reportedly impregnated at least one detainee. Most recently, in April 2010, a guard at the Port Isabel Detention Facility in Los Fresnos, Texas was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting female detainees being kept in medical isolation.

“The fact that private prison providers have repeatedly failed to prevent abuse of detainees in their care, yet continue to profit from lucrative contracts with the federal government, offends basic American values,” said Terri Burke, Executive Director for the ACLU of Texas.

“Sadly, the most unusual aspect of this incident may be that the abused women actually complained,” added Graybill. “Immigrant detainees, particularly women, are especially vulnerable to abuse because they may not speak English, and may be afraid of retaliation if they speak up. Victims may be promised help with citizenship proceedings if the comply, and threatened with rapid deportation if they resist.”

The ACLU of Texas, along with the National ACLU and the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic, successfully sued the federal government in 2007 over the conditions of confinement for children being detained at Hutto with their families. Shortly after the ACLU’s settlement agreement with ICE expired last year, the federal government stopped holding children at Hutto.

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