Stop Calling Immigrant Prisons "Detention Centers"
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My name is Sylvester Owino, and I was in “immigrant detention” for 9 years.
My name is Carlos Hidalgo, and for a year and half I was incarcerated in “immigrant detention centers.”
That is what the media, government, and for-profit prison companies who run these facilities call them, but in reality, these are immigrant prisons.
People in immigrant prisons are not serving a sentence, but simply awaiting the outcome of our request to stay in the US.
Those of us who have lived behind the locked gates and barbed wire know that the term “detention center” does not accurately describe the conditions and truth of what happens on the inside.
We, who have survived these brutal places, are requesting that media organizations - The Associated Press, The New York Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post, and other influential media outlets, call these facilities what they are: immigrant prisons.
Until we are honest about the fact that these are prisons, the inhumane conditions inside will continue to be covered up by the term “detention center,” and the corporations running the facilities will continue to make millions off of the suffering of the people inside.
If these are harmless “detention centers” … Why do they look like prisons, why are they run like prisons, and why are they owned by prison companies?
We were incarcerated in facilities run by the two largest for-profit prison companies in the country. Carlos was in GEO Group’s Adelanto immigrant prison, and Sylvester in CCA’s Otay immigrant prison in San Diego, among other facilities.
We both experienced countless human rights abuses. We worked for the for-profit prisons for $1 a day, cleaning and cooking. Carlos was put in solitary confinement for 6 days for organizing a hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment. Sylvester filed complaints on behalf of friends who were beaten by guards.
In Adelanto immigrant prison, 3 people have died in the last 7 months, and 6 people have attempted suicide since December 2016. Dozens of us have gone on hunger strikes to try and change things.
In order to end the abuse, we must first call them prisons and then close them. Starting with Adelanto.
Sylvester & Carlos
o Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, IEIYC
o Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, ICIJ
o Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, CIVIC
- NEW YORK TIMES
- Associated Press
Stop Calling Immigrant Prisons Detention Centers
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