Williamson County Commissioners Court Ends Hutto Contract

No guarantee facility will close; contract expires in 2019

Demonstrators gathered at the Federal Courthouse Plaza on March 13, 2018, in support of Laura Monterrosa, who spoke out publicly about her sexual assault, solitary confinement, and denial of proper medical treatment at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center.
Demonstrators gathered at the Federal Courthouse Plaza on March 13, 2018, in support of Laura Monterrosa, who spoke out publicly about her sexual assault, solitary confinement, and denial of proper medical treatment at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Williamson County Commissioners voted 4-1 today to end its contract with ICE through CoreCivic to run the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor. Under the approved terms, the contract, established in 2010, will now expire by Jan. 31, 2019.

“Being the go-between for a federal agency and private business on a federal issue such as this is not a core county function,” said Commissioner Terry Cook, who voted in favor of ending the contract. Cook noted the vote doesn’t solve the larger issue of closing the facility, or secure the fate of the roughly 500 largely asylum-seeking women detained there. She asked for activists to refrain from celebrating and instead “redouble” their efforts to change immigration policy at the federal level.

Following the vote, speakers thanked commissioners for their courage and read troubling letters from detained women at Hutto. The detention center is riddled with accusations of abuse, including sexual misconduct and medical neglect, as previously reported by the Chronicle (“Allegations Mount at T. Don Hutto,” Dec. 1, 2017). On Monday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking the agency to reopen two sexual abuse investigations at the facility. Activists say at least 35 mothers who were torn from their children as a result of Trump’s (now paused) separation policy are being held at the facility.

Prior to the vote, Grassroots Leadership – at the forefront of efforts to encourage the court to end the contract – led a “Jericho” protest and march, borrowing Biblical inspiration to “tear down the walls” of the detention center. The nonprofit’s Sofia Casini reminded commissioners that they could end the contract even sooner, within 90 days as opposed to the six months they approved, and that doing so would shift “moral and legal liability” from the court. The extra time also gives the feds a wide cushion to find another government funding avenue.

“This detention center is not needed in any form. It does not need to exist,” said Casini. “They have friends and family that want them and can take them in. … Please shut it down.”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

T. Don Hutto, Williamson County

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