Monday, July 28, 2014
After years of outrage at the conditions for immigrants in detention at the Pinal County Jail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ended its contract with the county. Since 2005, ICE has used the Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona to detain immigrants facing removal in Arizona. In 2012, in response to repeated hunger strikes and protest letters from people detained in the jail, Arizona advocates responded by holding vigils, organizing visitation programs and advocating for the termination of this contract. As recently as June 2014, men detained in the jail began a hunger strike in protest of the conditions.
“ICE’s decision to end its contract with the Pinal County Jail is long overdue. Year after year, since the beginning of this contract, men and women detained in the jail have bravely protested the punitive treatment and inhumane conditions,” said Victoria Lopez, Policy and Advocacy Director at the ACLU of Arizona and author of the 2011 report, In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers.
“ICE and the county were well-aware that their jail operations failed to meet federal detention standards as well as domestic and international legal obligations. Although the termination of this contract is an important step, ICE must make further efforts to reduce its reliance on detention including eliminating the bed quota and using safer and more humane alternatives to detention,” added Lopez.
In 2012, Detention Watch Network released a report on the conditions at Pinal County Jail calling for its closure as a part of the Expose and Close campaign. The report documented the inhumane conditions and lack of accountability at the jail, including complaints regarding sanitation, such as receiving food on dirty trays, receiving dirty laundry and having no access to outdoor recreation or contact visits with family members.
“Detention Watch Network is glad that immigrants in detention are no longer being held at Pinal County Jail. Conditions at detention centers across the country have gotten so bad that the only answer is to start shutting them down,” said Silky Shah, Interim Executive Director at Detention Watch Network. “We are hopeful that ICE will follow suit with the other Expose and Close facilities, especially the Etowah Detention Center in Alabama, which they tried to close in 2010.”