2.10.2007

A Peak Inside the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Families Prison

Responding to strong criticism of the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Families Prison, federal officials finally allowed the news media to tour the facility last Friday.

The prison is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, under a $2.8-million-a-month contract with the U.S. government to incarcerate women, men and children arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

According to a N.Y. Times report, federal officials portrayed the prison as a model facility “primarily focused on the safety of the children.” Once all the barbed wire comes down, Gary Mead, an ICE official, said, “it’s going to look more like a community college with a very high chain-link fence.”

In an interview for the Dallas Morning News, Nazmieh Juma Hazahza, an expectant mother who was imprisoned with her five of her children for 90 days, describes the facility differently: "like being in hell."

The Houston Chronicle's report on the prison visit includes this passage:

ICE slapped some paint on the place, fed pizza to the prisoners for the first time, and invited the press to visit. (And promised to remove the barbed wire.) [G]uards told the Chronicle in separate interviews this week that the Hutto center was being sanitized, or "prettied up," for the media tour, with furniture, artificial trees and other amenities appearing in the facility immediately prior to the tour.