ACLU: Detainees are being mistreated
The American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrants' rights and civil rights groups are asking the federal government to cancel its contract with the Pinal County Jail to hold immigrants awaiting hearings in immigration court.
According to the ACLU, many of the immigrants being held are here legally but the government has questions about their status, or are refugees being held until the government can determine whether to grant them refugee status. But a news release from the ACLU says it's received complaints from many of those detainees that they're being treated like they're being punished – even though, in many cases, they're not accused of doing anything wrong.
Victoria Lopez, program director of the ACLU of Arizona, tells KFYI News that the Department of Homeland Security announced three years ago that it was going to discontinue using jail facilities to hold immigration-court detainees. However, that hasn't happened yet. The federal government doesn't keep any immigration detainees at the Maricopa County Jail, although the ACLU has issues with the treatment of inmates there as well.
According to the ACLU, immigration detainees in Pinal County complain that they're not allowed any outdoor activity, visits from family, and other privileges that are common, even for pre-trial and post-conviction detainees.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Department issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the ACLU's charges:
"The Arizona Republic and other media outlets have all toured our Adult Detention Center in the past so that everyone could see firsthand how clean and well ran the facility is. The doors are always open if you would like to return and see it again. We have the best run Adult Detention Center in Arizona, as evidenced by being the first in the state to receive a National Accreditation and only the second in the nation. We also obtained the National Accreditation with a perfect score when evaluated on 594 legal-based guidelines. Our staff training is excellent, we provide a very clean and safe environment for all who are detained in our facility.”