Joint letter to investigate conditions at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia
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Senator David Perdue 455 Russell Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Representative Drew Ferguson 1032 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Rob Woodall 1725 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Barry Loudermilk 329 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Senator Johnny Isakson 131 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Representative Hank Johnson 2240 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515 Representative Austin Scott 516 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Rick Allen 2400 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Buddy Carter 432 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 Representative John Lewis 343 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Doug Collins 513 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative David Scott 225 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Sanford Bishop Jr. 2429 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Lucy McBath 1513 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Jody Hice 409 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Representative Tom Graves Rayburn House Office Building, 2442, Washington, DC 20515 October 17, 2019 Re: Requesting an Investigation of the Stewart Detention Center Dear Members of the Georgia Delegation to the 116th United States Congress, We are writing to request that you conduct a full investigation into the Stewart Detention Center. In the past two years alone, four deaths have occurred at the Stewart Detention Center. Most recently, on July 24, 2019, Pedro Arriago-Santoya, 44 years old, died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at Stewart. Two years have passed since Project South, an Atlanta-based social justice organization, in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University Law School’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, published a report on detention center conditions, titled Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers.1 In those two years, there have been no improvements in conditions at Stewart. Recent accounts from detained immigrants at Stewart indicate overcrowding, understaffed medical personnel, verbal and physical abuse, disregard of medical needs, accessibility concerns, and insufficient nutrition with irregular mealtimes.2 One detained immigrant remarked: “They call this place a black hole for a reason.”3 This letter comes about two years after our original letter to the Georgia Congressional Delegation submitted with 70 organizations on November 21, 2017, urging an investigation into Stewart. In light of the horrific news regarding the death of Pedro Arriago-Santoya and the other three deaths at the facility since May 2017, we are writing to urge you again to investigate Stewart before any more tragedies take place. I. Inhumane Living Conditions Stewart used to be a prison, and the conditions there reflect its history. Immigrants are divided into classification levels and assigned housing units and privileges based off of their classification.4 Immigrants have reported overcrowding5 and unsanitary conditions, including moldy showerheads and urinals, not being provided with sufficient undergarments, and lack of access to clean water.6 Many immigrants have reported being hungry and malnourished from waiting up to seven hours between meals7 and food that is sometimes spoiled or has foreign objects in it including hair, plastic, bugs, rocks, and mice.8 The diet at Stewart has created many complications for immigrants with medical conditions and dietary restrictions. Many immigrants reported having lost between ten and seventy pounds while detained at Stewart due to the inedible food.9 The combination of overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, and poor food quality makes many detained immigrants prone to developing serious health complications. In addition, many immigrants have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse by some officers at the Stewart Detention Center. One man stated that some officers would call immigrants racist and dehumanizing names including “wetback” and “doggy.”10 Some officers also become angry when immigrants do not speak English. Officers will yell things like “don’t speak Spanish, this is America.”11 Another immigrant stated, “officers yell and shout all the time. They’re always angry.”12 Another immigrant noted that on one occasion an officer shouted at him and eight other immigrants calling them “son of a bitch,” and slammed the door on his face simply for being a few minutes late to go to the recreation yard.13 Project South and Pennsylvania State University Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Detention Centers, May 2017, https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Imprisoned_Justice_Report-1.pdf. 2 Project South Interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 3 Id. 4 Imprisoned Justice, p. 31. 5 Project South Interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 6 Imprisoned Justice, p. 31, 41. 7 Id. at 32. 8 Id. at 31. 9 Id. at 32. 10 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on November 29, 2017. 11 Id. 12 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 13 Id. 1 In addition to shouting and using vulgar language, some officers will regularly take away commissary for little or no violation for a week.14 One man stated an officer who has a history of being aggressive yelled at him for looking at her. The officer yelled: “why are you looking at me son of a bitch,” and took away his commissary funds.15 This meant he could not purchase food, buy clothing, or use the phone to call loved ones.16 At one given time, this same officer took away the commissary of five different people.17 Certain officers are also known to send immigrants to solitary confinement for minor or no violation at all.18 One immigrant stated “if officers are in a bad mood, they yell and say they’ll send you to the hole.”19 In addition, some officers will act cruelly with immigrants in various ways including forcing immigrants to stand for two hours during count time or by taking away basic necessities.20 One immigrant noted that when he asked an officer for toilet paper, the officer told him to use his fingers to clean himself.21 Immigrants at Stewart have also been mistreated by some officers while working in the kitchen.22 One detained immigrant noted that the officers always yell and curse at immigrants working in the kitchen, and become angry when immigrants do not understand English.23 He also noted that an officer in the kitchen hit him on his arm so hard that it turned red simply for picking up the wrong plate. He stated, “she hit me hard. She hit people several times.”24 II. Inadequate Access to Medical Care The conditions at Stewart indicate that the facility is not sufficiently equipped to address serious medical issues. Immigrants have also suffered serious illnesses at Stewart resulting from the conditions they are subjected to. In January 2018, 33-year-old Yulio Castro Garrido died of pneumonia while detained at Stewart despite being healthy prior to detention.25 According to ICE’s detainee death review, the Stewart staff violated protocol and failed to monitor Garrido’s blood pressure after signs of stage two hypertension.26 Imprisoned Justice, p. 36; Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 16 Id. 17 Id. 18 See Section VI below. 19 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 20 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019; https://projectsouth.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/04/Complaint-Barrientos-v.-Core-Civic.pdf. 21 https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Complaint-Barrientos-v.-Core-Civic.pdf. 22Id.; Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 23 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on January 16, 2018; Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 24 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 25 https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/brother-cuban-was-healthy-before-dying-pneumonia-icecustody/9TNpiI95CYQPyiGPoSyzmJ/. 26 https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/OPR-Release-of-2019-ICLI-00033.pdf; https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/ice-records-illmigrant-continued-working-ice-custody-died. 14 15 Moreover, officers at Stewart did not comply with their own standards and failed to suspend Garrido from the work program when they became aware of his illness. Garrido continued to work in the kitchen despite his fever, cough, and runny nose up until the day he was hospitalized and taken away in an ambulance.27 The death review file noted that this dangerous practice may have allowed the spreading of the contagious illness to other detained immigrants as well.28 Finally, the review noted that there was a delay in calling the ambulance which resulted in a delay in urgently-needed medical care for Garrido.29 Additionally, the inhumane living conditions pose the threat of exacerbating preexisting medical needs of detained immigrants. As early as 2012, ICE identified Stewart as a facility with inadequate medical care.30 Medical care at Stewart continues to be inadequate seven years later. Immigrants have described the medical unit at Stewart as understaffed and have said that it is “a waste of time” to request medical care.31 For example, detained immigrants have reported significant delays in the amount of time that it takes to receive medical care and to see a doctor, ranging from a few days to several weeks.32 Furthermore, medical personnel are reported to only be available on weekdays. One immigrant noted: “If you have an emergency on the weekend, you’re on your own.”33 Many immigrants have also reported not receiving adequate medication to treat their health conditions. One detained immigrant who passed kidney stones reported that he never received any medication; instead, he only received over-the-counter painkillers.34 This is not a standalone occurrence; many immigrants at Stewart have reported only receiving over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen or Tylenol for serious illnesses or injuries. Even when detained immigrants receive the correct medication, they often do not receive the correct dosage. For example, one detained immigrant with several health problems, including diabetes and hypertension, reported not receiving his medication consistently, which caused his condition to worsen.35 While he was supposed to be receiving his diabetes medication fourteen times a week, he only received the medication up to six times a week.36 Additionally, many detained immigrants have reported that they were either unaware of any mental health services that they could seek or believed there was no access to mental health professionals.37 Furthermore, detained immigrants who suffer from mental health concerns are often hesitant to express their need for treatment because those with mental health concerns are known to be placed in solitary confinement.38 For example, immigrants at Stewart have reported that they were placed in solitary for speaking about depression, personal trauma, or for requesting assistance.39 In solitary, immigrants are isolated in a small cell for 23 hours a day without access to showers or commissary and have to request to use the restroom whereupon they are shackled and taken to the restroom in chains.40 In addition, Id. Id. 29 Id. 30 Id. 31 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 32 Imprisoned Justice, p. 35-36. 33 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 34 Imprisoned Justice, p. 33-36. 35 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 36 Id. 37 Imprisoned Justice, p. 36. 38 Id. 39 Id. 40 Id. 27 28 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org immigrants must choose whether to use the phone or get an hour of recreation time outside of their small cell. While in segregation, detained immigrants cannot tell whether it is day or night.41 Some immigrants reported that they were placed in a straitjacket and placed in segregation for talking about suicide.42 Medical professionals and international human rights organizations have consistently decried the use of solitary confinement for individuals with mental health concerns.43 The United Nations has called for a complete ban on placing individuals with mental health conditions in solitary confinement.44 By placing individuals in segregation, the dignity of detained immigrants is ignored, and their mental health is at risk of worsening. III. Deaths by Suicide The misuse of solitary confinement is alarming because of the detrimental impact that solitary confinement has already had on existing mental health concerns of immigrants at Stewart. Two immigrants with a history of mental health concerns have died of suicide after being placed in solitary confinement for over 15 days—a time period that the United Nations would consider torture.45 Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph, a 27-year-old immigrant with schizophrenia detained at Stewart died of suicide on May 15, 2017 by hanging himself after 19 days in solitary confinement.46 Almost a year later in July 2018, Efrain Romero De la Rosa, a 40-year-old immigrant with bipolar disorder detained at Stewart, died of suicide after 21 days in solitary confinement.47 These tragedies point to a pattern of neglect regarding the mental health of immigrants at Stewart, and the expedient use of solitary confinement as a means for Stewart to disregard the humanity of detained immigrants and their need for mental health care. A) Death of Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph entered the Stewart Detention Center on March 7, 2017 with a documented history of serious mental health concerns including a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia, chronic history of auditory and visual hallucinations, and previous suicide attempts.48 During the two months he was at Stewart, JiménezJoseph told medical professionals on at least five different occasions that he needed an increase in his medication dosage because the medication was not working for him.49 He repeatedly told medical professionals that he was hearing voices and even stated that he was feeling suicidal when he first entered Stewart.50 However, he was never physically seen by a psychiatrist because Stewart had a year-long vacancy for the full-time psychiatrist position.51 This means that the 1,907 immigrants then detained at Stewart did not have a single full-time psychiatrist available to them. Consequently, the immigrants had to rely on teleconferencing a psychiatrist which was limited to only six hours a week for all detained immigrants.52 This created a large two to three-month backlog where individuals like Jiménez-Joseph had to wait up to two months before getting critical follow-up care.53 Id. Id at 49. 43 https://phr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Solitary-Confinement-ExecSumm-April-2013.pdf; https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitaryconfinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says. 44 Id. 45 https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitary-confinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says. 46 https://www.ajc.com/news/breaking-news/family-detainee-who-hanged-himself-georgia-lockup-suing-ice/QYZReZLtc2uQ930XO9ZfxJ/. 47 https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/gbi-local-sheriff-office-probing-ice-detainee-death-georgia/wAAuPnVBiJZtPBvlfSdVkN/. 48 Detainee Death Review of Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph. 49 Id. 50 Id. 51 Id. 52 Id. 53 Id. 41 42 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org Just a few weeks before Jiménez-Joseph died by suicide, he told a nurse that he was hearing voices telling him to kill himself and that he needed a higher dosage of his medication.54 The very next day, he jumped nine feet off a two-tier ledge. Instead of getting mental health or medical treatment, he was punished by a disciplinary board for endangering others and property, and sentenced to 20 days in solitary confinement.55 He was even evaluated and cleared by a doctor at Stewart for placement in solitary confinement despite stating he was being “tormented by voices and sounds all the time” and that the voices encouraged him to “do things he did not want to do.”56 While in solitary, Jiménez-Joseph continued to face lack of care. Nurses doing segregation rounds are required to do face-to-face visits and ask detained immigrants about their behavior and thought process.57 However, a nurse admitted to fabricating documents stating that she completed a full encounter visit with Jiménez-Joseph, when in reality, the typical practice that she followed was to knock on the door to make sure that the detained immigrant was there and then move on, unless the immigrant raised an issue.58 During this time, Jiménez-Joseph’s mental health deteriorated even further. Just days before his death, he was seen standing on the toilet talking to himself, yelling at the mirror, kicking the air, and pounding on walls.59 When a nurse told the doctor of Jiménez-Joseph’s behavior, the doctor noted that his tele-psychiatrist appointment was in six days on May 15, and that Jiménez-Joseph could talk to the psychiatrist then about changing his medication dosage.60 Jiménez-Joseph was last seen alive on May 14 at 11:26 pm. The officer in charge of doing security rounds fabricated records saying he made rounds at 12 am and 12:28 am when in fact no one had done rounds for about an hour.61 At 12:37 am when the officer returned to do security rounds, he found Jiménez-Joseph hanging by his bedsheets from the sprinkler head.62 B) Death of Efrain Romero De la Rosa Just a year later in March 2018, Efrain Romero De la Rosa entered the Stewart Detention Center with a documented history of schizophrenia and hallucinations.63 In late April 2018, De la Rosa was placed on suicide watch in the medical housing unit.64 De la Rosa told a mental health professional that he was having auditory and visual hallucinations, that he would be “dead in three days,” and that “God was trying to kill him.” 65 As De la Rosa’s health continued to deteriorate, he was transferred to the Columbia Regional Care Center to treat his mental health, where he stayed for a month.66 Upon De la Rosa’s return to Stewart, his intake form indicated that he still “obsessed with the concept of death.”67 In addition, he told a nurse that he “always had conversations” with God and that he would “suffer three terrible Id. Id. 56 Id. 57 Id. 58 Id. 59 Id. 60 Id. 61 Id. 62 Id. 63 https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/mexican-hanged-himself-amid-lapses-ice-detention-center/Fa9REGPLOCuop5Se4zmBjP/. 64 https://theintercept.com/2019/08/29/ice-solitary-mental-health-corecivic/. 65 Id. 66 Id. 67 Id. 54 55 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org deaths in the future.”68 Despite this documented history of mental health concerns and time spent at a psychiatric facility, officers did not make a note of his schizophrenia diagnosis on the classification worksheet as required.69 Instead, officers sent him to live with the general population at Stewart rather than receive care in the medical unit.70 Just days later on June 19, a social worker found De la Rosa to have met the criteria for having a serious mental illness.71 That same day, De la Rosa was sent to solitary confinement for 30 days, with the go-ahead from the medical unit, as punishment for rubbing his foot on a female correctional officer’s foot.72 While in solitary confinement, De la Rosa’s mental health became visibly worse. A social worker documented De la Rosa as having limited mental functioning.73 De la Rosa was reported to be crying all the time and exclaiming that he wanted to be with his family.74 Other detained immigrants in the same unit noted that De la Rosa talked about suicide and how God “told him to leave.”75 During his time in solitary, a nurse fabricated an account about fully evaluating De la Rosa when in fact the nurse just handed him a piece of paper to sign and then walked away.76 On July 10, De la Rosa told a social worker that he was going to die and did not need medication.77 The social worker referred him to a higher level of care at a mental health facility. However, by that time, it was too late. At 8 pm that evening, other detained immigrants noticed that De la Rosa’s lights were off, which was unusual.78 A detained immigrant tried warning the officer in charge that something was wrong with De la Rosa and urged the officer to check on De la Rosa.79 He told investigators, “we told them something is happening…we told him can you check on him. And they didn’t even care.”80 8:40 pm that evening was the last time De la Rosa was seen alive.81 The officer in charge fabricated documents stating that he checked on De la Rosa every 30 minutes as required up until his shift ended at 10 pm.82 It was not until 10:30 pm, two hours later, when the new shift had begun that an officer found De la Rosa hanging by a noose made of socks by his bed railing.83 Even at De la Rosa’s time of death, the Stewart staff was unprepared to respond to this emergency, lacking essential tools; the oxygen tank that was brought to the scene was empty and the automated external defibrillator could not be found thus impacting the level of care he received.84 IV. Use of Force Id. Id. 70 Id. 71 Id. 72 Id. 73 Id. 74 Id. 75 Id. 76 Id. 77 Id. 78 Id. 79 Id. 80 Id. 81 Id. 82 Id. 83 Id. 84 Id. 68 69 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org On September 11, 2019, a group of about 40 to 60 men predominantly from Cuba, protested the conditions they were facing at Stewart and their prolonged detention.85 At 4 pm, the group stayed in the recreation yard, wrote “libertad” (freedom) on their shirts, and held up signs that said “help.”86 The men continued to peacefully protest, forgoing shelter, food, and sleep in the hopes that someone would address their concerns.87 Instead, at around 4 pm the next day, the men were met with heavy use of force and violence by riot police.88 The riot police threw several gas bombs at the men and shot at them using rubber bullets.89 One detained immigrant who saw everything happen from a window in his unit noted: “Riot police came and attacked the Cuban men with gas [bombs] and rubber bullets while the men were just sitting. The men suffered so much. They just wanted to talk to someone. They weren’t doing anything violent.”90 The men were reported to be coughing and unable to breathe. Another man noted that he could see the Cuban men trying to run away from being shot but there was nowhere to run to.91 At one point, the riot police cornered all the men in one location and then threw another gas bomb directly at the men.92 One man noted, “It was so aggressive, malicious and savage. The protesters were peaceful. It was so ugly to see.”93 Afterwards, these men were sent to solitary confinement and were subsequently either deported or transferred to another facility. While the immigrants in the recreation yard faced violence, immigrants inside Stewart also suffered. After noticing the men protest outside, some of the men inside different units wanted to join. In one particular unit, a group of 25 men tried to talk to the officers about the human rights violations they were suffering at Stewart.94 The officers responded with vulgar language saying, “Fuck you, you don’t have rights.”95 An officer then pulled out a gun and pointed it to the men, yelling at them to sit on the floor.96 An immigrant who was present stated, “we were afraid they would make us disappear.”97 Then a group of 20 or more officers with guns came into the pod and began to use forceful restraints on the men.98 One man noted that he saw an officer twist his roommate’s arm back so aggressively that he was afraid that his arm was going to break.99 They were then punished with solitary confinement for 30 days.100 While in solitary, a man told us: “We are afraid. I am not ok...they are trying to keep us quiet,” and proceeded to cry.101 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. Id.; Email to Priyanka Bhatt re Protests at Stewart, dated September 27, 2019. 87 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 88 Id. 89 Id. 90 Id. 91 Id. 92 Id. 93 Id. 94 Id. 95 Id. 96 Id. 97 Id. 98 Id. 99 Id. 100 Id. 101 Id. 85 86 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org In addition, all immigrants in the facility were forced into lockdown for at least two days where they had to stay in their room all day.102 The men were not allowed to shower, use the phone, watch TV, use commissary, or receive social visits.103 Furthermore, the men did not receive food until very late in the day for several days.104 One man stated that everyone was so hungry from not eating for many hours; some men even became sick from not eating for so long.105 V. Forced Labor Detained immigrants at Stewart are forced to work up to 12 hours or more for meager wages, $1-$4, to obtain basic necessities.106 Stewart engages in a deprivation scheme where the facility withholds basic necessities such as food, toilet paper and toothpaste, forcing detained immigrants to work in order to buy those items.107 When detained immigrants refuse to work, they are threatened with solitary confinement or have their commissary or phone cards taken away.108 One immigrant was held in solitary confinement for almost 30 days for refusing to participate in the labor program.109 Project South, Southern Poverty Law Center, Law Offices of R. Andrew Free, and Burns Charest LLP sued Core Civic in April 2018 for violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act for the forced labor practices at Stewart.110 Wilhen Barrientos, one of the plaintiffs in the Barrientos Lawsuit, recalled: “When I arrived at Stewart I was faced with the impossible choice – either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and food… If I didn’t work, I would never be able to call my family.” 111 VI. Solitary Confinement The misuse of solitary confinement at Stewart has been notorious. A 2018 Office of Inspector General (OIG) report formally concluded that Stewart violated the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), did not justify disciplinary actions, and failed to tell immigrants why they were placed in segregation.112 Many immigrants have also complained about being held in solitary confinement for minor violations if any at all.113 One detained immigrant stated: “For minor things, officers will send you to solitary confinement. Things like standing up over the bed will get you 15 to 30 days in the hole. I’ve seen this happen to people. They are not the same after [being sent to solitary]. They are bad mentally. They don’t tolerate people. They don’t tolerate noise. I can see the difference.”114 Another man echoed this sentiment saying that he has seen what solitary confinement can do to a man.115 He noted that an immigrant from his unit came back from being in solitary confinement for three months and started “acting crazy,” and ate his own feces.116 Id. Id. 104 Id. 105 Id. 106 https://projectsouth.org/forced-labor-lawsuit; https://projectsouth.org/private-prison-company-uses-forced-labor-of-detained-immigrants-in-georgia-toboost-profits/. 107 Id. 108 Id. 109 Id. 110 Id. 111 Id. 112 https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017-12/OIG-18-32-Dec17.pdf. 113 Imprisoned Justice, p. 36. 114 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 115 Id. 116 Id. 102 103 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org In addition to misusing solitary confinement for individuals with mental health concerns, Stewart also uses solitary as retaliation to punish immigrants who speak out against conditions. Records reveal that more than two dozen detained immigrants in 2016 were placed in solitary confinement after going on a hunger strike to protest facility conditions.117 Furthermore, at least 20 men were sent to solitary confinement as punishment for participating in peaceful protests that occurred on September 11, 2019.118 One man reported that he never had an opportunity to present his case to the Institution Disciplinary Panel prior to being sentenced to 30 days in solitary confinement as required by the 2011 PBNDS.119 VII. Due Process Concerns In 2015, the Stewart Immigration Court had the highest rate of deportation out of any immigration court in the United States and continues to have one of the highest deportation rates in the country today.120 Moreover, immigration judges at Stewart consistently deny bond or set bond at prohibitively high amounts, resulting in prolonged detention for many immigrants.121 Stewart’s notorious immigration court subjects immigrants to detention without a reasonable prospect of securing release which undermines their Eighth Amendment right to a reasonable bond.122 Inadequate access to legal resources also serves as cause to investigate Stewart. At Stewart, detained immigrants and attorneys alike have reported difficulties in having legal visits due to facility deficiencies that undermine the detained immigrant’s right to substantive representation. Conversations between attorneys and immigrants are held through plexiglass windows with malfunctioning phones.123 Attorneys have reported that the rooms are not sound-proof and that they must shout to convey information over the noise of the guards or nearby television.124 Attorneys have also reported that they are frequently waiting for prolonged periods of time to meet with clients.125 Stewart is actively prohibiting access to mechanisms for relief from detention as well as access to substantive legal representation. VIII. Conclusion We write to you on behalf of those detained at Stewart and on behalf of their loved ones. The long record of human rights violations behind the walls of Stewart and recent deaths of immigrants who were detained at Stewart demand your attention. We ask that you investigate the conditions at the Stewart Detention Center and take appropriate measures. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Azadeh Shahshahani at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Priyanka Bhatt, email@example.com, 404-622-0602. We thank you for your time and your attention to this matter. Imprisoned Justice, p. 39. Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on September 22, 2019. 119 Id.; 2011 Operations Manual ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards, at page 214, available at https://www.ice.gov/doclib/detention-standards/2011/pbnds2011r2016.pdf. 120 Imprisoned Justice, p. 28; https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/12/12/america-s-toughest-immigration-court; https://www.themarshallproject.org/documents/3230396-CThompson-TheMarshallProject; https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/deport_outcome_charge.php. 121 Imprisoned Justice, p. 28. 122 Id. at 40. 123 Project South interview by Priyanka Bhatt at the Stewart Detention Center on July 3, 2019. 124 Imprisoned Justice, p. 28. 125 Id. 117 118 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org Sincerely, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice Adelante (A project of the Immigrant Justice Initiative) Alianza Americas American Immigration Lawyers Association, Georgia-Alabama Chapter American Muslim Empowerment Network Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Atlanta Berger immigration law Black Alliance for Just Immigration Carolina Jews for Justice Center for Victims of Torture-Atlanta Church World Service Coalicion De Lideres Latinos Columbia Law School Immigrants' Rights Clinic Council on American-Islamic Relations, Georgia Chapter Defending Rights & Dissent Desis Rising Up and Moving Detention Watch Network EcoViva El Refugio Emory University Students for Justice in Palestine Ethical Humanist of Atlanta Families For Freedom First Existentialist Congregation's Social Justice Guild Freedom for Immigrants Freedom to Thrive Freedom University Friends of Broward Detainees Gentle Spirit Christian Church Georgia Alliance for Social Justice Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda Georgia Detention Watch Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition Georgia Shift Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) Grandmothers for Justice Hate Free Decatur Healthcare Now Human Rights Defense Center 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org Immigrant Hope, Atlanta In the Public Interest Indivisible Georgia International Action Center International Worker Solidarity Network Jewish Voice for Peace, NC Triangle Chapter Jewish Voice for Peace, Triangle NC Jewish Voice for Peace, Atlanta chapter Joining Hands for Justice, Palestine/Israel Judea Reform Congregation Social Action Committee Justice Strategies LatinoJustice Law Office of Kerry E. McGrath Law Offices of Hilary Smith, LLC Los Vecinos de Buford Highway Mami Chelo Foundation Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America Migrant Center for Human Rights Mijente Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia Muslims for Social Justice National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, Atlanta National Immigrant Justice Center National Lawyers Guild, Southern Region New American Pathways New Mexico Immigrant Law Center New Sanctuary Coalition New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta Oakhurst Baptist Church Pangea Legal Services Paz Amigos Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform Project South Quixote Center Racial Justice Action Center School of Americas Watch Science for the People Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund Social Concerns Network Solano Law Firm South Georgia Immigrant Support Network Southeast Immigrant Rights Network Southerners on New Ground Sujata Gupta Winfield LLC 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org The Alemany Law Firm LLC The Corso Law Center The Global Purpose Approach The International Law Institute of Washington The Sikh Coalition The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) of the National Lawyers Guild Trans(forming) U-Lead Athens UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Washington Defender Association's Immigration Project Whatcom Civil Rights Project Women on the Rise Women Watch Afrika, Inc. Worth Rises 9 GAMMON AVENUE • ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30315 • (404) 622-0602 OFFICE • (404) 622-4137 FAX www.projectsouth.org