BAKER COUNTY, Fla. — Immigration advocates are calling for the closure of the Baker County Detention Facility, which contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented individuals.
A few dozen protesters were joined by various immigration advocacy groups outside the federal courthouse, demanding ICE cancel its contract with Baker County Correctional Facility Friday.
“We’re also asking that everyone who is detained there, that they also be released,” said Andrea Jacoski with Americans for Immigrant Justice.
The advocates estimate about 100 undocumented detainees are housed at the facility currently.
They claimed more than 140 complaints and at least two lawsuits have been filed against the facility since 2020 for abuses ranging from voyeurism, excessive use of solitary confinement, and lack of access to healthcare and legal representation.
“The inmates were extreme on the horrific conditions,” said Tammy Owen.
Owen said her husband, Ben Owen who was a British citizen, was detained at the facility in 2020.
An ICE press release says he was detained after being arrested in Port Orange on five charges, including stalking, domestic assault and battery.
He took his life after being at the facility for just 11 days.
“There was nothing that suggested any sort of mental illness or suicidal thoughts and if there were then it was their responsibility to keep him alive,” said Owen.
According to ICE, the Baker County Detention Center underwent its annual detention inspection and received a superior rating from the ICE Office of Detention Oversight.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring that all those in the agency’s custody reside in safe, secure, and humane environments under appropriate conditions of confinement. In general, ICE continues to review immigration detention centers nationally, monitoring the quality of life and treatment of detained individuals among other factors relevant to the continued operation of each facility,” said an ICE Spokesperson in an emailed statement.
The Baker County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the allegations brought by the protesters.
Jacoski said they’re hopeful the ICE contract will be severed, as similar allegations led to the closure of a detention facility in Glades County earlier this year.
“All of the clients we’ve had up in Baker are moms and dads. So, these are adults who have US citizen children here in the United States, have established their lives here and they’re our neighbors,” said Jacoski.
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