The following is an an excerpt from a New York Times editorial, “Immigration Detainees Get a ‘Better’ Prison.“
Federal officials this week unveiled a new immigration detention center in rural Karnes County, Tex., the first designed and built to reflect the Obama administration’s effort to stop treating all detainees like criminals. The center is brightly painted and looks more like a school than a prison, with dormitory-style rooms, a gym, library, medical office and soccer field. Detainees can move around freely, exercise, watch TV and use computers. They can also attend their hearings in rooms hooked up for video conferencing with judges in Houston and San Antonio.
For too long, the challenge of making sure accused immigration violators appear in court has had a one-size-fits-all answer: a jail cell, often far from family and lawyers, in a sprawling system of private and public lockups. All too often, inmates in shoddy, poorly monitored detention centers have been abused and neglected. Some have died for lack of medical treatment.
The Karnes center is an encouraging first step toward building a better immigration jail. But it’s still a jail. The administration would do well to pour at least as much effort into expanding alternatives to prison for low-risk detainees. Many can be released on bond or in the care of sponsors or monitored at home. It will cost the government far less and be far more humane and still ensure that accused violators show up for their day in court. [New York Times]
Below are photos taken by Eric Sigmon of LIRS on his tour of the new Karnes County Civil Detention Center. For more on the LIRS response to the new facility, read the blog post “Karnes County Civil Detention Center: A Step in the Right Direction, But Better Options Exist”