[Pnews] Conditions worsen for some ICE detainees at Richmond jail

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 10 11:51:09 EST 2017


  Conditions worsen for some ICE detainees at Richmond jail

By Otis R. Taylor Jr. - November 10, 2017

Things are looking worse at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.

This week, I read a copy of a letter signed by 27 female inmates at the 
jail saying that they were being treated poorly because of their 
immigration status.

That letter was dated in September — before Contra Costa County 
sheriff’s deputies who run the jail say they heard there were problems.

Meanwhile, inmates, their attorneys and jail monitors say that since the 
detainees spoke out about the conditions, their treatment from some jail 
staffers has gotten worse.

The letter signed by the 27 inmates was sent to Community Initiatives 
for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, a San Francisco group 
that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

In the letter, the women say that jail staff doesn’t give them access to 
classroom learning materials that they readily give nonimmigrant 
inmates. The letter also told of immigrant detainees being kept locked 
up for hours and told to use bags in their cells when they need to go to 
the bathroom.

The letter was handwritten by Nancy Mayer, a 40-year-old native of Mexico.

“When we are on lockdown and a county inmate needs to use the restroom, 
she is unlocked so that she can use it,” Mayer wrote. “When an ICE 
inmate asks, we are always told to either hold it, or to use a ‘red bag’ 
— Bio Hazard Bag. This is unacceptable.”

The fact that these women were complaining as far back as September 
raises the question of how sheriff’s officials didn’t know this was 

And get this: Since The Chronicle reported the allegations on Nov. 2, 
the conditions have deteriorated for the detainees, according to 
attorneys and jail monitors I’ve spoken to. Detainees who signed 
permission forms to be interviewed and photographed by The Chronicle 
when I visited the jail Oct. 31 say they have been singled out by guards 
who have withheld soap and shampoo and have not allowed them to brush 
their teeth after meals.

They’re the women who made the startling allegations of being denied 
access to the bathrooms and sufficient health care. Instead of being 
interviewed as part of an internal investigation, the women are being 

“Because they’re advocating for the humanity of those detained with 
them, they’re being subjected to practices that the prison system has 
always used,” said Rebecca Merton, CIVIC’s national visitation 
coordinator, referring to long periods of confinement. “This isn’t an 
issue of misconduct of just a few individual jail guards. It’s clear 
that the whole system is a machine of oppression.”

One detainee, who requested that her name not be published, told me in a 
phone call from the jail this week that detainees must stay in their 
cells all day even if their doors are unlocked. And to use the restroom, 
they have to be escorted.

Sheriff’s officials have denied allegations of mistreatment and say 
inmates can typically leave their cells to use bathrooms and take classes.

But there’s been one small change: The inmate who called this week said 
that some of the guards haven’t been making the detainees wait as long 
as before — up to 23 hours — to use the bathroom. Still, they must wait 
hours after making a request to go.

Contra Costa County has a $6 million-a-year contract with U.S. 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run a federal detention center at 
the Richmond jail, housing male and female ICE detainees for the feds.

But the complaints raise serious questions about oversight and 
accountability at the jail.

Several elected leaders have said they are appalled at the allegations. 
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has scheduled a Nov. 27 tour of the 
jail. And state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, sent a letter to state 
Attorney General Xavier Becerra urging his office to immediately look 
into the conditions at West County.

So far, there’s no indication Becerra is going to take any action — and 
that’s a mistake on his part. Skinner reminded him in the letter that 
the Legislature provided his office with an extra $1 million this year 
to look at ICE detention centers.

“The allegations in this story are concerning,” the attorney general’s 
press office said in a statement. “As part of the California Department 
of Justice’s review of immigration detention facilities, we intend to 
look into issues like this and gain a better understanding of the 
conditions in these facilities.”

That’s weak. Women — mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends — 
are sounding the alarm about inhumane conditions at a jail. What will it 
take to get somebody in there to investigate?

“They have the power to go in there and figure out the truth, and they 
ought to be doing it,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, referring to the 
attorney general’s office.

Butt opposed the 150,000-square-foot expansion of the West County 
Detention Facility, approved by the Contra Costa County Board of 
Supervisors in June. Butt said the jail is already too big because 
Sheriff David Livingston contracts with ICE.

When I visited the jail, a quarter of the 800 inmates were ICE detainees.

“Basically, he’s running a jail for rent out there,” Butt said of 
Livingston. “People in this part of the county generally don’t 
appreciate that.”

/San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis R. Taylor Jr. appears Mondays, 
Wednesdays and Fridays. Email: otaylor at sfchronicle.com 
<mailto:otaylor at sfchronicle.com> Twitter: @otisrtaylorjr 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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