Re: Adelanto Detention Center visit, women’s facility, Oct. 23. Two volunteers and I waited quite a while with many others, including small children who I assume were waiting to spend a little time with their father, mother, or grandparents. A group was taking a tour of the facility, so we waited until they were leaving. As usual, we had deposited all belongings in individual lockers before passing through a metal detector, through two locked doors, into the visitor room.
I first met with a woman from Russia who had come to the United States on a J-1 visa, seeking asylum because of persecution in Russia due to her religion. She had lived in the United States for five years, working as an assistant for a man and his wife and living in their home, completely dependent on them. Gloria (not her real name) suffered emotional and sexual abuse from this man and was convicted of wire fraud, due to the computer work she was forced to perform. She spent 16 months in prison and then was sent to Adelanto. After a hearing on Aug. 21, her bond was denied and that decision is being appealed. Hearing of Gloria’s physical, sexual and verbal abuse was heartbreaking, which is probably the understatement of the year.
My next visit was with a woman from Mexico. She had been deported in 2003 but returned to the U.S. where she was living with her partner and their 5-year-old autistic son. Maria (not her real name) served the United States as an FBI drug informant. She was arrested (detained) when visiting her uncle. This was a heart-rending visit since Maria misses her son, who has disappeared from her life. Many tears were flowing during our talk.
During this final visit, the other two volunteers and I were all talking with women in the same area of the room, so we were able to have a three-way conversation between ourselves and the detainees. One prisoner who was more proficient in English was able to translate for the other who had very limited English. The third detainee joined in; this was a first for me and inspiring.
I learned during this time that when one detainee was first imprisoned, there were 20 women in the facility. Now there are 96. They all sleep in one huge room with no privacy. If the TV is on, or there are arguments or chatter, sleep is impossible. Try to imagine this for yourself.
Karla H. Edwards