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'Voices from Detention' Expected to Echo Loudly

July 15, 2008

Seattle, WA - Most of the people being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma have serious complaints about their living conditions and legal rights. The Center holds people charged with immigration violations.

Seattle University Law School students have interviewed detainees there, and worked to confirm their stories. The results of their effort, released today, paint a grim picture of the justice system for immigrants.

Pramila Jayapal, founder and executive director of the human rights group One America says the Center was designed for temporary stays, but has held some people up to four years. The report includes allegations of lack of medical attention and of misconduct by guards.

"What we’re talking about is a lot of physical and verbal abuse. We have very disturbing accounts of strip searches. One detainee was strip-searched almost ten times over a period of two to three months, and those strip searches usually followed attorney visits."

Jayapal says the report breaks complaints into seven categories, from overcrowding and due-process violations, to physical and verbal abuse by guards.

"Medical problems that should have received medical attention were reported by 75 percent of detainees. In terms of treatment by guards and federal marshals, I think almost everyone reported issues."

The Center in Tacoma is the holding spot for about a thousand people from around the Northwest who are accused of immigration violations.

Jayapal says One America is taking its report to the Washington Congressional delegation and has also given a copy to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who have not yet responded. In recent months, ICE has stepped up its deportations from the Northwest by 40 percent.

The report, "Voices from Detention," will be released today and can be found online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA