On Tuesday, Feb. 26, I visited the Adelanto Detention Center with nine other volunteers from Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Pasadena and Fillmore, as well as Santa Clarita. My first meeting was with a detainee (prisoner) I will call Anita, a woman who I had met with on a previous visit. Each time I visit the center I learn something new and it is always something horrible. In this case, it has to do with a detainee’s “privilege” of filing a “grievance.” Anita had asked to speak with a dorm guard’s supervisor, called a lieutenant, in order to document abuse by a specific guard after filing a grievance. This didn’t go well because the guard in question was included in the discussion, which resulted in further intimidation of Anita by the guard after the meeting.
Anita told me that many of the women have had issues with this particular guard but are fearful of filing a grievance since they know that the abuse will be intensified. I would certainly like to know if these grievance forms are made available to any organizations working on the behalf of detainees.
I also learned that the guards have a lot of power and can even determine who can use the microwave to heat their breakfast, as well as who will go without a meal. One form of intimidation evidently applied is total disregard of the detainee’s right to exist as a person deserving respect.
Anita is a brilliant woman who has now completed the book she has written. It is currently being edited and her next step is to find a publisher or to research self-publishing.
In addition, she and I are listing qualifications necessary when evaluating future husband material.
My second visit on Tuesday was with a woman I will call Jane, whose country of origin is Mexico. Jane is married to a United States citizen who lives in Orange County with their four daughters. I always thought that being married to a citizen was all one needed to obtain citizenship but I was wrong, it seems. Jane has had one hearing – her husband was able to provide the $10,000-plus to obtain bail and they are now awaiting a second hearing. Jane’s English is a bit limited, but not as limited as my ability to speak Spanish. However, we were able to communicate effectively. If I were to sum up our visit, I would say Jane is in danger of dying of boredom. Each day, as she described, is wake up, eat meals, go to bed. There are no classes, nothing to stimulate the mind or imagination, and no books in the center library written in Spanish.
Detainees’ belongings can be searched and their bunk beds searched as well, which is an act of harassment since no one is allowed into the area without a thorough search so there is no reason for a guard to disturb the belongings of a detainee. I don’t believe that these random searches of detainee’s belongings are part of the guard’s job description and if they are arbitrary, this could be called harassment of a particular detainee.
Many women in the facility have faced gang violence in their country of origin, so the guard’s choice to wear a fright mask and to awaken individuals from a deep sleep to scare them is one example of abuse, in my opinion.
Visitors are not allowed to mail items to those confined to the facility. Anyone wishing to receive a book must have the book approved before they can receive it and visitors are not permitted to mail any item to anyone detained in the facility. A book has to be paperback, approved, and sent directly from Amazon or a store such as Barnes and Noble. Letters to detainees must have their alien number, dorm number, and whether they sleep on the upper or lower bunk.
Karla H. Edwards