Karla Edwards | A Visit to the Detention Center

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I visited the men’s facility at the Adelanto Detention Center, along with 10 volunteers from Ventura and Pasadena, some who were visiting the detainees in the women’s facility.

There are approximately 2,000 people from many countries currently housed at this center.

When we arrived, we were given locker keys for our belongings — we were not allowed to take anything into the area past the metal detector … not even a pencil and paper (disappointing, since I had planned to take notes… which I guess is just why it wasn’t permitted.) Pockets were emptied and metal objects, such as belts and jewelry, removed.

I was able to speak with prisoners (detainees, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement likes to call them) from three countries: Federal Republic of Somalia, the Republic of Chad and Mexico.

The man from Mexico’s $4,000 bond was paid with donated funds. He was due to be released in a week. On the drive home, I was told that this man had told the volunteer last month the same story; I don’t know what to make of that! (Legal representation can cost as much as $3,500.)

The two men from Africa, one from Somalia (near the Horn of Africa) and one from Chad (Central Africa) had entered the United States in the hopes of continuing their educations. Mr. A. described the sleeping arrangements at the center: bunk beds in sets of four and two such groups in one area. The toilet is open to the entire sleeping area and attempts to use bed sheets to gain some privacy result in the sheets being taken away by guards and not returned to the person attempting privacy, leaving them without sheets for their beds.

We talked about meals: fine the first month or so, but after that, the repetition experienced by having the same meal every week, the same dishes served on the same day, resulted in lack of appetite.

Many of those in the center spend the day in their bed: no reason to get up. There is opportunity for supervised outdoor exercise but I don’t know if this attracts a person who is depressed. I was told about one detainee who planned to commit suicide since he was told he would be detained at the center for at least five years. Mr. B. persuaded him not to end his life because he would still have many years ahead of him once he was released. This was an example to me of the camaraderie among the prisoners — perhaps the only positive thing I can relate.

It is my understanding that for-profit detention centers receive $50 per detainee, per day. At one time, the cost was $111 per detainee, and when this information was publicized, the corporations involved were required to reduce their daily fee. They added more prisoners to make up the difference. (You are encouraged to research this yourself. “Immigration Detention 101” is a good place to start.)

Karla Edwards

Santa Clarita

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