NOT FAR FROM HERE

By Aleita Hass-Holcombe, First Congregational UCC, Corvallis, OR
dentention center tacomaDid you know that not far from here is one of the country’s largest for-profit detention centers in the country? Tacoma, Washington is the home of Northwest Detention Center, operated by the GEO Corporation.1

On March 7, 1200 people held at the center began a hunger strike and work stoppage. The hunger strikers join a nation-wide movement of resistance against unprecedented levels of detention and deportation. During President Obama’s administration nearly 2,000,000 people have been deported. To learn more about actions against deportations see the #Not 1 More Deportation web site.

The situation in Tacoma is only the tip of the iceberg.  What underlies this situation requires a look at the bigger picture of the for-profit prison system in America.  Profits of for-profit prisons are up by 500% from 20 years ago.2 $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists have encouraged politicians to support the for-profit system. Unknown to most Americans, some states sign agreements to guarantee they will fill a certain number of beds in these jails at any given point? The most common rate is 90%.2  

The quality of care provided in immigrant detention centers is unacceptable.  Civil rights groups have a great deal of documentation. Issues raised by the demands of the Tacoma strikers are not unlike issues faced by others in centers across the country.

Tacoma strikers are asking for:

  • Improved food quality
  • Improved treatment (including medical treatment)
  • Increased pay for work in the facility (the current pay is $1.00/day)
  • End to exorbitant commissary prices
  • Fundamental fairness and justice

The everyday injustices not far from here beg for attention. Who will notice? Who will step forward to amplify the voices of the people inside?  As members of a denomination that has a justice and witness ministry team, it seems it is up to us.

1http://www.geogroup.com/index

2http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20880-for-profit-prisons-eight-statistics-that-show-the-problems

NOTE: Here are two ways to take action this May:

THIS MAY DAY: RALLY IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE NWDC HUNGER STRIKERS!

The hunger strikers have called for a rally at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma this May Day to show support their demands.

On May Day, traditionally a national day of advocacy for immigration and labor rights, the hunger strikers are calling for increased attention to their demands for better treatment (including better food and access to medical care), fair compensation for their work inside the for-profit detention center (currently $1 a day), and an end to deportations.

Northwest Detention Center (1623 E J Street) in Tacoma
Thursday, May 1, 2014, NOON – 1:00 PM

“As you rally outside, we’ll do our best to support you from in here,” said Army veteran Hassall Moses, who spent nearly one month in 24-hour lockdown after calling for a work stoppage.

ESTE PRIMERO DE MAYO: ¡MITIN EN SOLIDARIDAD CON LOS HUELGISTAS DEL CENTRO DE DETENCION DE TACOMA!

ALSO: Mothers’ Day Vigil at the Tacoma Detention Center, WA
IMIrJ and Washington New Sanctuary Movement
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Meet 9:00 am in parking lot of Ascension Catholic Church
743 SE 76th Ave., Portland 97215
Return to Portland approximately 5:00 pm  http://imirj.org/upcoming-events/

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