[UPDATED with 300 Groups Demand Closure:] Theo Lacy Facility Outed as Among the Worst Immigration Detention Centers in the U.S.

See the Update No. 2 at the end of this post on 300 groups calling on the president to close troubled immigrant holding facilities, including Theo Lacy's.

See Update No. 1 on the ACLU of Southern California citing the Detention Watch Network report in calling for the closure of Orange County's immigrant holding facility.


theo-lacy-facility-sign_square.jpg
ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 13, 8:38 A.M.: Theo Lacy Facility in Orange is among the worst immigration detention centers in the country.

So claims Washington, D.C.-based Detention Watch Network, which calls on President Barack Obama to reform the immigration system and with it the nation's 10 worst holding facilities, which include Theo Lacy.

See also:
Immigration Detainee Dies at Theo Lacy Jail
Transgendered, Gay ICE Detainees Sue Over Treatment at Theo Lacy Jail
Ruben Maya Gallegos Dies in Custody at Theo Lacy

The 11-acre jail between Orangewood Children's Home and Orange County Animal Shelter is the only California facility to make the 10 worst list. Theo Lacy joins Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, Pinal County Jail in Arizona, Hudson County Jail in New Jersey, Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois, Baker County Jail in Florida, Houston Processing Center and Polk County Detention Facility in Texas, and Stewart Detention Center and Irwin County Jail in Georgia.

As the immigrant population has exploded in the U.S. over the past 15 years, facilities like these have increasingly "appalling conditions," claims Detention Watch, noting that Obama promised reform of an "inhumane system" in 2009. Things are now so bad at Theo Lacy and the other nine that the only option is to shut them down, the nonprofit watchdog maintains.

The group on Thursday will unveil to the nation's media a series of reports titled "Expose and Close" that will apparently reveal "the widespread pattern of mistreatment." Among the evidence (in the words of Detention Watch Network):

  • Roberto Medina-Martinez, a 39-year-old immigrant, died at Stewart in March 2009 of a treatable heart infection. An investigation conducted following his death revealed that the nursing staff failed to refer Mr. Medina for timely medical treatment and the facility physician failed to follow internal oversight procedures.
  • A man with serious emotional health problems in the Houston Processing Center in Texas was placed in solitary confinement for months at a time, a practice which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has deemed torture.
  • At Baker, Etowah and Pinal County Detention Centers and Jails, families are only able to visit with their loved ones in detention through video monitors after having driven hundreds of miles to see them.
  • At the Pinal County Jail complaints regarding sanitation include receiving food on dirty trays, worms found in food, bugs and worms found in the faucets, receiving dirty laundry, and being overcrowded with ten other men in one cell and only one toilet.

Not part of the Detention Watch Network heads up, but possibly rolled into the report, is last year's death of 55-year-old Honduran Jose Aguilar-Espinoza, who suffered a heart attack inside Theo Lacy, as my colleague Nick Schou revealed at the time.

Schou also wrote about a transgendered, gay ICE detainees suing the county last year for mistreatment at Lacy.

Among those scheduled to speak as the report is released Thursday are: Azadeh N. Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project director, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia and president of National Lawyers Guild; Pedro Guzman, a former Stewart Detention Center detainee; and Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church/Los Angeles Area.

UPDATE NO. 1, NOV. 15, 4:46 P.M.: In the wake of the Detention Watch Network report released today detailing "grim conditions for immigrant detainees housed at Orange County's Theo Lacy Detention Center, including widespread abuse and substandard medical care," the ACLU of Southern California is "calling on the federal government to terminate its contract with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and stop using the high-security prison as an immigrant holding center," according to a statement from the group's LA office.

"The punitive conditions at Theo Lacy are not fit for housing anyone, and certainly not for immigrants who are being held only on suspicion of committing civil immigration violations," says Michael Kaufman, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, in the release. "The federal government should honor its commitment to a 'civil detention' model by terminating its contract at Theo Lacy."

The report titled "Expose and Close," which as previously reported here designates Theo Lacy as one of the 10 worst immigration detention centers in the country, alleges staff there kick and shove detainees, subject them to racial epithets including "nigger" and "camel" and so neglect their medical needs that at least one died as a result. "The report also documents overuse of solitary confinement for minor rule infractions," notes the ACLU statement, "a punishment that can cause permanent damage to mental health." 

Click here to read the report.

Like the ACLU, the Detention Watch Network concludes Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should close the facility and instead rely on alternatives to detention that, they contend, have proven track records and are more cost-effective.

Sheriff's officials claim the ranking of Theo Lacy is based on anecdotal evidence. While conceding there is always room for improvement at any government-run facility, these officials maintain the report rolls into an agenda by foes to close all such facilities housing immigrants here illegally.

But in 2009 the operation of Theo Lacy and the James A. Musick Facility for all inmates--even those in the U.S. legally--came under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny because of widespread complaints of brutality, horrid conditions and even deaths.

The ACLU and Detention Watch Network join in recommending that while Theo Lacy's immigrant hold center remains open, ICE should impose a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of inmates, end the use punitive solitary confinement and better facilitate family visitations.

UPDATE NO. 2, NOV. 28, 11:12 A.M.: Three hundred national and local organizations sent a letter to the White House today calling on President Barack Obama to close what have been deemed the 10 worst immigrant detention centers in the U.S., including the one at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

"We hope the call for closure from such a diverse array of organizations across the country will convince President Obama that he must act," says Andrea Black, executive director of Detention Watch Network, which released the damning report Nov. 15 that the groups reacted to. "ICE claims it has taken steps to reform the detention system, but the people actually in detention are suffering as much as ever. In his second term, the president has the power to bring about change that will uplift immigrants instead of lock them up."

Click here to view the letter signed by the groups.

Besides closing the troubled center like Theo Lacy's, the groups call on Obama to make "immediate changes to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of immigrants held in detention."

Besides the groups, Detention Watch Network has received support for its closure call from U.S. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas).

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My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
QueerRant
QueerRant

Queer is queer , end of story.

 

Queer recipe is still a queer recipe.

 

Aimee Monahan
Aimee Monahan

Just another reason to be so proud of OC, right? Not really surprised this is happening here, considering how our law enforcement treats people on the streets.

Tom Slick Pearson
Tom Slick Pearson

"Immigrants" don't get held in detention...EVER. "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS" do....If they went through the process like every other law abiding immigrant-citizen, this wouldn't even be up for discussion, or news...Stop misrepresenting the facts.

Brian J. Arra
Brian J. Arra

But look how nice the area is surrounding that jail facility. Ahhhh

CRIMECONCERNS
CRIMECONCERNS

If Theo Lacy closes, what will happen to all the attorneys representing former inmates and/or their families that have been physically abused and/or murdered while being held at Theo Lacy. Afterall, Orange County's economy depends on these types of lawsuits and revenues from attorney fees... and the sane in the OC cannot help but wonder how many non-disclosed interested parties find ways to financially gain from the ongoing volume of lawsuits against the County of Orange, OC Sheriff and the OC Jail facilities. Not often do I agree with the decisions of the ACLU but in this case, I say go go go..... close down this corrupt law enforcement facility that does nothing but expose Orange County taxpayers to liability and wasted tax dollars. This could actually put the OC Board of Supervisors in jeopardy---what would they do without the lawsuits and public scandals that continue to embarass the good citizens of Orange County, CA.

OCguy
OCguy

Enter the US illeagaly and become a detainee is like wining the Obama Presidential Election. Someone else will be fronted the bill. A person entering this country illeagaly is a criminal. Criminals have more rights that a US citizen..

909Jeff
909Jeff

I'm pretty sure theo lacy is still nicer than west valley detention center out here... Or central holding in San berdoo.... Either of which you may have had the privilege of staying at in your younger years!

daniel.genseric
daniel.genseric

"ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY!"

 

Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

 

The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

 

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites. W

 

hat if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

 

How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem? And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

 

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am anaziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

 

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

 

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young

You know, in any given population, some folks are gonna get sick, have heart attacks etc. The fact that a detainee had a hard attack doesn't 

 

Of course we own this people decent treatment, and an expedited trick back whence they came. You know, places like Singapore and Thailand make illegal immigrants do 'hard time' before kicking their butts out. Asians are smart!

petersparks
petersparks

This would not be a problem if the illegals weren't here in the first place. Spend the money keeping them out, not on making them happy in JAIL!.

MatthewTCoker
MatthewTCoker topcommenter

 @909Jeff I don't recall being in either, but I spent plenty of time in the West Valley sheriff's office checking the arrest log.

MatthewTCoker
MatthewTCoker topcommenter

 @petersparks So, using your logic, if a cop who pulls you over for speeding shoves his nightstick up your ass it's OK because it wouldn't have happened had you not been speeding in the first place. Which highways do you drive?

OCguy
OCguy

 @mcoker  @petersparks

 The logic is, more of your tax dollar is going to criminals than going back in your pocket!

RoadRunner1g1
RoadRunner1g1

 @mcoker  @petersparks

 if they hear it sucks to get caught, perhaps maybe they will stop coming? I drive the I-5 and get a daily stretch and pack - don't you?  LOL

MatthewTCoker
MatthewTCoker topcommenter

 @OCguy  @petersparks I agree, those white collar criminals and their looting of our tax dollars must be stopped. I say tax the beejesus outta them!

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