Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All She Asked Was That Her Brother Be Treated Humanely

"Please we need help from each & every one of you." the sister of a man held at Delaney Hall, a for-profit immigration detention center in Essex County said.

On October 9th outside of Delaney Hall, the private, for-profit correctional facility that is housing ICE detainees as part of a deal with Essex County, protesters met a woman who had waited an hour and a half to see her brother only to be turned away. She told us how badly her brother was being treated and with tears in her eyes she begged for help.

Remarkably, she did not ask that he be represented by a lawyer, or for him to be set free, all she asked was that he be treated humanely.

Sadly, that is not a given in Essex County or anywhere else that immigrants are being held on behalf of ICE in the United States.

Please watch the video and share it with everyone you know.

And then sign the petition to revoke the ICE contract in Essex County

Then ask your friends to do the same.

…Because we need help from each and every one of you.

Special thanks to Gabriela Garcia from Change.org and Frank Lopez from The Peace Poets for putting this video together.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

An Invitation for Abuse in Essex County

This past August, the Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo, entered into an inter-governmental services agreement (IGSA) with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase the number of ICE detainees held in Essex County to 1250. The contract is being touted as a way to generate huge revenue for the county, which may, in turn, benefit some property owners. However, serious questions regarding whether the county will experience any net benefit from the contract, and the effect that incarceration for profit will have on already inhumane conditions remain. We are also left with the overarching question of whether or not using the incarceration of people as a way to make money is an acceptable way for Essex County to raise revenue.

Unfortunately for Essex County's coffers, the prison business is labor intensive and one where economies of scale do not easily apply. The $50 million per year the County Executive claims Essex will receive is significantly overstated. Essex County has admitted, through written communication, that this is both a gross revenue number and one calculated using an absolute best case scenario of all 1250 beds being filled at all times at the full $108/day reimbursement rate.

Though Essex County claims that "all appropriate analysis have been done," it has been less than forthcoming about the costs associated with the contract. We know from published reports that the subcontract with Community Education Centers (CEC), the politically connected, for-profit firm that runs Delaney Hall, alone will reduce this number by at least $8-10 million.

No calculation of the increased cost of additional guards, or required improvements to the facilities has been provided and Essex County is claiming that despite repeatedly promoting the increased training that all guards would undergo as a result of the new contract there are no costs associated with this training. Despite repeated requests for information, all the Essex County Administration will say so far about the costs of the contract with ICE is that they are "fixed based on our operational costs." Although, the costs associated with running a public facility is public information, Essex County has yet to divulge what those costs are.

Essex County Freeholder Ralph Caputo who is chair the penal committee for Essex County says the new contract between the county and ICE is "unpleasant but useful" because it will raise revenues. Joe DiVincenzo has called the agreement between Essex and ICE a "homerun" and. says it will "help reduce the financial burden on our taxpayers." However, the county has no control over property taxes. That is up to the individual municipalities to decide. In fact, Newark just announced a 4.6% property tax increase for the coming year despite the fact that Essex County presented a balanced budget for 2011 that included projected revenues of $27.5 million from the ICE contract.

This past June, after months of testimony from advocates, service providers and community members, Freeholder Caputo announced that Essex County would investigate charges of violations of the NJ Administrative Code and other civil & human rights violations. He invited advocates to join this effort to oversee the jail. Essex County has since reneged on this offer.

It appears that Essex County is either not being realistic about costs associated with running an immigration detention facility or they are going to be running a facility that is woefully unprepared to adequately meet the needs of the expanding immigrant detainee population.

The Essex County Executive and the Freeholders want us to believe that they can spin the misery of the immigrants in their custody into gold for the rest of the residents of Essex County, but by perpetuating an environment in which profit is the primary motivator while shirking their responsibility for oversight, they are inviting abuse.

Please join at Peter Francisco Park in Newark tomorrow at 1:30 pm as we demand that the Freeholders revoke the new ICE contract and institute a community oversight board for the jail and Delaney Hall.

Whether or not you can come please sign the petition.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

NY/NJ Coalition Mobilizing Against Detention for Profit



Residents of New Jersey To March to the Essex County Jail to protest freeholders decision to Put Revenue Before Human Rights in approving a contract to house immigrant detainees at controversial Essex County Correctional Facility and Neighboring Delaney Hall.

– Concerned New Jersey residents including members of Pax Christi NJ and more than 20 immigrant rights and religious organizations from New York and New Jersey will march from Peter Francisco Park in Newark, NJ, to the Essex County Correctional Facility on Sunday in opposition to a new contract with Essex County that would expand immigration detention at the jail and the neighboring privately run Delaney Hall to house up to 1,250 immigrant detainees. The jail has been accused of inhumane conditions including proximity to active polluters and toxic waste sites; restrictions on visits from family, lawyers, and clergy; concerns about adequate food and general safety; and a denial to access of medical services.

March and Rally in Opposition to Inhumane Conditions at For-Profit Detention Center in Toxic Waste Corridor
WHERE: Beginning at Peter Francisco Park (Adjacent to Newark Penn Station) in Newark, NJ, and marching to Essex County Correctional Facility & Delaney Hall, 356 Doremus Ave., Newark, NJ
1:30 PM - 4:30 PM, Sunday, October 9, 2011

“The Essex County Executive and the Freeholders want us to believe that they can spin the misery of the immigrants in their custody into gold for the rest of the residents of Essex County, but they are perpetuating an environment in which profit is the primary motivator while shirking their responsibility for oversight,” said faith leader Kathy O’Leary, who launched an online campaign on Change.org. She and Pax Christi NJ, the organization she represents, are a part of a statewide coalition of organizations which has been engaging the chosen freeholders in private and public meetings since January, consistently asking that the no new contract with ICE be approved prior to completing a thorough investigation of allegations of human rights abuses and violations of NJ law at the jail and instituting a community review board to ensure facilities comply with all applicable standards.

Participants and the coalition members are hoping to send the message that New Jersey residents are upset with the Freeholders’ decision. A large coalition of faith groups is asking that the Freeholders ensure visiting hours that include evenings and weekends; contact visits for family members; no restrictions on visits, phone calls, and other contact with lawyers and clergy; adequate mental and physical health care; healthy food that complies with dietary restrictions and religious observances; unrestricted access to communal religious services; and regular outdoor recreation free from exposure to hazardous environmental conditions. The online petition on Change.org has already garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

Sunday’s event is the third major protest outside the Essex County Correctional Facility and Delaney Hall since Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced its intention to partner with Essex County. The event is also the 13th annual protest against immigration detention by the immigrant rights group IRATE & First Friends, traditionally held outside the Elizabeth Detention Center. However, the protest is moving to Newark this year along with the detainees. The event is to take place just days after ICE completes transferring hundreds of immigrant detainees from the Elizabeth Detention Center to Delaney Hall and two years since ICE issued a report that was supposed to transform immigration detention from an unfairly penal system to one of humane civil detention.

ICE is saying the move to Essex is an attempt to improve conditions, but advocates disagree. “The policy of mandatory immigration detention is bad enough, but what ICE is holding up as the model of immigration detention for the entire country is a jail and a hastily partitioned penal facility next to active polluters and toxic waste in the middle of what is known as ‘chemical corridor.’ How is that an improvement? How can anyone call that more humane?” said Cynthia Mellon Environmental Justice & Community Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation.

The campaign is catching on and it is attracting the attention of national groups. “Kathy O’Leary and Pax Christi NJ’s campaign to demand more humane conditions for immigrant detainees is impressive,” said Jackie Mahendra, Change.org’s Director of Organizing for Immigrant Rights. “Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and it’s been really incredible to see this campaign take off.”

Live signature totals from the Kathy O’Leary and Pax Christi NJ’s campaign:

Featured Speakers:

· Carol Fouke-Mpoyo –Chairperson, Sojourners Immigration Detention Center Visitors Program

· Cynthia Mellon –Environmental Justice & Community Organizer, Ironbound Community Corp.

· Daniel Cummings – Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights

· Ed Martone –Executive Director NJ Association on Correction

· Maristela Freiberg & Moacir Weirich – St. Stephan's Grace Lutheran Community Church

· Anabela Moura Silva – Wilson Avenue School parents group

· Sally Pillay – Coordinator Intern Program, IRATE & First Friends

Live music performed by the Catholic Worker Band and spoken word/hip-hop ballads performed by The Peace Poets

The event is co-sponsored by: Action 21; Action for Justice Community Church of NY Unitarian Universalist; American Friends Service Committee, Immigrant Rights Program-Newark; Bergen County Branch/People's Organization for Progress; Casa Esperanza; Casa Freehold; CEUS; Community of Friends in Action, Inc.; Immigration Task Force, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey; Felician Sisters of Lodi; Ironbound Community Corporation; Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; NJ DREAM Act Coalition; Pax Christi NJ; Riverside Sojourners Immigration Detention Visitor Project; St. Stephan's Grace Community – ELCA; Sisters of Mercy, Mid-Atlantic Justice Office; Social Responsibility Council of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood; Unidad Latina en Accion- NJ; Wind of the Spirit

For more information on Pax Christi NJ, please visit:
Pax Christi NJ is part of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic organization, reaching over a half-million Catholics directly every year. We have over 400 local groups throughout the United States, over 100 bishop members, 700 parish sponsors, 600 religious communities, and 50 college and high school chapters.

For more information on Change.org, please visit:
Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by more than 400,000 new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.