Email from Jay Johnson-Castro, Sr.
If we cannot free innocent children imprisoned “for profit” on American soil…right here in the “heart of Texas”…our State and our country are doomed.
We must free them!
Many of you have been there since day # one…and already know this. Many are just coming to discover the details. Many of you from all parts of the country have shared in solidarity with us in our quest to free the innocent children from the Hutto prison.
A year ago, May of 2006, Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff proclaimed the T. Don Hutto prison for immigrant families the prototype of many more to be opened across our great land. Hutto just so happened to be a privately owned prison…run “for profit”. Immigrant children would condemned to becoming a commodity for huge financial gain of the corrupt political-corporate world. A few informed Texans tried to find a way to expose and bring public awareness to this immoral, callous and criminal scheme.
At that time, children were confined to 8′ x 12′ cold cells for 23 hours a day in a medium security prison surrounded by razor wire walls. Often not with either parent, the children, ranging from 2-y-o and up, were forced to wear prison uniforms, stand for head counts starting at 5:30am and only allowed 20 minutes to finish a meal, often prepared with out of date food and spoiled milk products. They were getting sick on a regular basis and loosing weight.
Those were the conditions…up to early December, 2006 when an alliance of Central Texas organizations solidified to form Texans United For Families (TUFF) collaborated to hold a protest walk and vigil. Starting with a press conference, hosted by Texas State Senator, Carlos Uresti, at the Capitol building, the first Hutto walk was launched on December 14th. Arriving at 11:00am on December 15th, in Taylor, TX at the Hutto childrens prison, the walk joined the first Hutto Vigil…with some 150 grassroots citizens coming together for the first time to publicly condemn the Chertoff-ICE-CCA-Williamson County collusion to imprison children and their mothers for profit.
Since that time numerous vigils and walks have been conducted. The most recent walk, Hutto Walk III, went from the Hutto childrens prison in Taylor to the Williamson County Commissioners Court in Georgetown, in order to confront the commissioners about moral breakdown and their complicity of profiting from the imprisonment of innocent children.
Since the first Hutto Walk and Vigil, many things had come to light.
- ICE funnels a minimum of $2, 800,000 per month to the private prison company CCA…Corrections Corporation of America.
- Parents were often separated from their children.
- Fathers are generally imprisoned in a different prison far away.
- Hutto did not comply with Texas or US educational laws.
- Hutto did not comply with Texas family and day care laws.
- Women were not being given proper medical care.
- Women were chained to beds while undergoing checkups.
- Women were being sexually assaulted.
- Media was not allowed to tour the facilities.
- Hutto did not comply with the UN Rights of the Child.
- CCA was grossing $7,000 per month per child.
- WCC would make $1 per child per day.
- No toys were allowed.
- Mothers and children were threatened with separation as a form of punishment.
Under those conditions, at the end of January, 2007, the Williamson County Commissioners Court ignored the expressed concerns of a public with a conscience and extended their one year contract for two more years. But thanks to grassroots citizens, human rights organizations and media pressure, some of those things started to change as early as mid February. Razor wire started to come down, cells doors got painted lavender and the media was allowed to enter the facility…although they were not allowed the freedom of the press to interview the children or their mothers.
In March, the ACLU, TCRP and UT Law Clinic filed lawsuits against Chertoff and ICE, adding another level of legal and media attention.
On May 8, the UN Special Rapporteur, Jorge Bustamonte, of the Human Rights Commission, came to Texas to inspect the human rights violations of the children in Hutto. He was denied access by Chertoff.
On June 23, an Amnesty International coordinated Hutto Vigil X was held at which half a thousand folks peacefully protested this international crime against innocent children.
The ACLU effectively won their lawsuit against Chertoff…in the form of a settlement. Conditions for the children would be significantly better…but…any settlement would fall well short the rightful freedom for the innocent children that we the public demand.
Since there was a clear case of sexual assault by a guard on an immigrant woman in front of the woman’s child, the Williamson County Commissioners Court finally saw their could get caught with their pants down. Concern about exposure and “liability” became public. For a short time, the WCCC entertained termination of their contract with ICE and CCA as the money laundering mechanism for ICE and CCA. Yet ICE and CCA courted the WCCC to keep it in the loop…with CCA offering the WCCC a $250,000 line of credit and legally holding them harmless in the event of law suit. Not at all concerned with the moral or criminal aspects, or the international mockery they had become for imprisoning innocent children, WCCC unanimously accepted the offer of protection from “liability”.
YET…not one national television network has covered this international crime against children. While more concerned this past year with celebrity crimes, paternity DNA, panties, drunk driving, dog fights and heists and jail sentences…CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox…national…have all refused to tell the story of innocent children being prisoners in a privatized “for profit” internment prison in the United States.
While we recognize that the national networks are complicit with an administration that would commit this dehumanizing crime against the most innocent and helpless of our human family, we applaud all of the local media here in Texas…along with those around the country and around the world. “Hutto” has gone from four Google search results one year ago…to tens of thousands today.
From Australia to Iran, Russia to Argentina, the media…radio, television, newspapers, magazines and blogsphere… have carried the message all across the planet of how children are being imprisoned in America…in the heart of Texas…for profit. Radio, newspapers, television and online news and blog sources…have faithfully published the story. We also applaud the vast national and international media that has tried to inform their audiences about this American tragedy. We look with cynicism upon the national networks that rebuff this international crime being committed by the administration on American soil.
We have also had Texas legislators try to condemn Hutto during the legislative session. Unfortunately, and that’s how corrupt politics is, legislators who are on the payroll of private prisons refused to allow the condemnation to be aired publicly.
This December 16th will be the anniversary of our first Hutto Vigil. We will indeed hold an anniversary vigil…regardless of the weather. Regardless of the weather, the children from upwards of 50 different countries have been imprisoned in Hutto. After months of being treated as criminals and slaves…we don’t even know what has happened to them, or where they are or how they are. Worse yet…the vast majority of our fellow Americans do not YET know that Hutto even exists.
What’s interesting about this vigil…we have come to learn that it coincides with December 18…the International Migrants Day. How fitting that we would be prote
sting the imprisonment of immigrant children in the land of the free.
So, we now notify you…and invite you…to join us on December 16th…in front of the T. Don Hutto prison for innocent children…for our Hutto Anniversary Vigil….and in honor of the International Migrant. We will hold the Anniversary Vigil from 2pm until dark. After sunset, the anniversary vigil will become a candlelight vigil.
T. Don Hutto is located at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor, TX, 35 miles N.E. of Austin. The following link can be used to get directions from your particular point of origin.
Before we sign off here, may we all, in total solidarity, make a personal appeal to the President of the United States. Would you join me in requesting his intervention in behalf of the innocent children imprisoned by his Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff? Would you join me in demanding that he order the immediate release…the freedom of the innocent children…from Hutto and from any other facility that detains them against their will?
Do you, as President of the United States, approve of the imprisonment of innocent children…in America…in Texas…”for profit”? If not, please immediately free them and their mothers.
If you actually do approve of the imprisonment of innocent children…in America…in Texas…and “for profit”…then we expect you to give them at least as good a deal as you gave Scooter Libby. After all, if you can pardon Scooter Libby…a convicted criminal…before he had to serve even one day in prison, surely you can free innocent children that are already imprisoned under your watch.
One December 16th…and our Hutto Anniversary Vigil…may we have a 1001 candles lit up and down 1001 Welch St.
“Connecting the Dots…Making a Difference”
Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr.
Please read my column: Inside the Checkpoints