Tuesday, September 22, 2009

That Promise of Detention Reform

New York Times Editorial
Sept. 21, 2009

Last month the Obama administration announced that it was going to overhaul
immigration detention, to impose accountability and safety on a system
notoriously deficient in both. This month, the official chosen to lead the
effort, Dora Schriro, announced that she was leaving Washington to become the
commissioner of correction for New York City. But the job of fixing the
detention system, and all of its horrors, must move ahead.
On Friday, her last day on the job, Ms. Schriro delivered a report on the
detention system to Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. We hope
that it fully reflects the desperate reality: the brutal mistreatment;
isolation, filth and deprivation; the shabby or nonexistent health care and the
ill and injured detainees who languished and sometimes died, their suffering
Ms. Schriro’s successor will have a big job in fulfilling the
administration’s promise of reform. The abuse and neglect must end. The system
must also become much more discriminating about whom it holds — dangerous
criminals, not the harmless and sick.
It will also have to rein in the
private for-profit prisons that deliver brutal service on the cheap. And it will
have to increase accountability and transparency. Ms. Napolitano can start by
releasing Ms. Schriro’s report. Americans need to find out what happened in
Basile, La., where detainees staged a hunger strike to protest detestable
conditions, or downtown Los Angeles, where inmates filed a lawsuit to protest
the squalor.
While Ms. Napolitano and her team promise to make detention a
“truly civil” system, they show no interest in reforming the corrupt mechanisms
that feed it. Instead, they are expanding the programs that have allowed corrupt
local officials to round up thousands in unjust raids. The same people whom
President Obama has promised a decent shot at citizenship remain easy prey to
racial profiling, and are terrified of ending up in this truly uncivilized
system. Mr. Obama and Ms. Napolitano must resolve that fundamental


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