Grassroots Leadership Sues to See Contract Between ICE and CoreCivic

The organization hopes to shine light on ICE and the T. Don Hutto facility

T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Grassroots Leadership wants to know what's in the contract between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CoreCivic, the for-profit jailers who run the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, for housing detained immigrants. Even after two Freedom of Information Act filings by the justice advocacy group, ICE has refused to produce it. So GL, which has long battled to shut down T. Don Hutto, filed suit in federal district court Sept. 9 to force its release. "At this point, we have no way of knowing whether there is even a written contract for the operation of this detention center," said GL's Bethany Carson.

When ICE contracts with a private prison, it typically does so through a third-party government entity, which for T. Don Hutto has been Williamson County for the last decade. Toward the end of that run, largely as a result of GL's efforts, the Wilco Commissioners Court's feet grew cold as it heard the many allegations of abuse at T. Don Hutto, along with the term "civil liability." In August 2018, they chose to stop doing business with CoreCivic; the contract expired in January. Around that same time, ICE announced a "short-term contract extension" with CoreCivic; nine months later, operations at the center grind on.

T. Don Hutto is the only immigrant detention facility in the nation reserved solely for women; at present, over 500 are detained there. As the Chronicle has reported, it was the scene of much heartbreak in the summer of 2018 when guards began separating children from their mothers. There have been persistent allegations of medical neglect of detainees, and it's earned notoriety for reports of sexual abuse; Laura Monterrosa attempted suicide in January of 2018 after complaining of such abuse at the hands of a guard. GL was integral in getting her released two months later. An FBI investigation has seemingly gone nowhere.

At its Sept. 10 press conference, GL asked, "Why is T. Don Hutto still open?" But at the very moment Williamson County voted to end its relationship, CoreCivic's CEO Damon Hininger was celebrating his prisons' increased profitability. He told investors it was "the most robust kind of sales environment we've seen in probably 10 years."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Brant Bingamon
COVID-19 Finally Arrives at Travis County Jail
COVID-19 Finally Arrives at Travis County Jail
Outbreak is "small," but inmates and advocates are angry

Feb. 11, 2021

The Eighth Street Survivors
The Eighth Street Survivors
They came out to protest police brutality. They were met by a life-altering wave of police violence. Eight months later, they still await justice and change.

Feb. 5, 2021


Grassroots Leadership, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CoreCivic, T. Don Hutto Residential Center, Freedom of Information Act, Williamson County, Bethany Carson, Laura Monterrosa

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle