A new report on one of the country’s most notorious immigration detention facilities paints a picture for how an immigration detention facility can be closed and repurposed as a community-based, alternative to detention reentry center
Santa Ana, CA – Today, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) in partnership with Torti Gallas + Partners, the ACLU of Southern California, and Advancement Project California is releasing a 72-page report on how the City of Santa Ana can repurpose its jail.
The report, Rebuilding Trust: A Case Study for Closing and Repurposing Immigration Detention Facilities, investigates human and civil rights abuses at the facility and provides a basic plan for jail reuse. It also is designed to assist any community looking to repurpose a Clinton administration-era jail.
“The City is at a critical turning point. It can listen to its residents who are clamoring for the closure of the city jail or it can continue to operate the facility at a fiscal deficit at the expense of the community,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of CIVIC and the primary author of the report. “We hope this privately-funded report will help City leaders make an informed decision.”
The City originally borrowed $107.4 million in bonds in 1994 to assist with the cost of constructing the combined jail/police headquarters facility, with a 30-year repayment term. The Santa Ana City Jail is currently operating at a significant deficit, and in each year since at least FY15, jail-specific revenues have failed to cover the operating costs of the facility.
The City of Santa Ana also is at risk to lose millions defending and settling claims against its jail.
The living conditions that individuals incarcerated at the Santa Ana City Jail are forced to endure are at best deficient. The report investigates inadequate medical care, prolonged solitary confinement, inappropriate classifications of inmates, excessive or inappropriate disciplinary actions, among other things, such as unhygienic food service that can result in the transmission of bacteria or disease.
“Many of the situations we have documented at the Santa Ana City Jail raise state and federal legal concerns,” said Fialho, who also is a California attorney.
But there is hope!
Since 2011, at least 22 states have closed or announced closures for 94 state prisons and juvenile facilities. Counties and cities that have closed their correctional facilities have eventually repurposed them in exciting new ways. For example, facilities have been converted into museums and special events venues, a movie studio, a distillery, a reentry center, and live-work space with condominiums, office buildings, shops, and restaurants.
“In addition to helping the City pull itself out of its current deficit, repurposing the facility to a non-correctional space can provide a public benefit to the community at large and prevent more harm from occurring within the City jail,” said Daisy Ramirez, the Jails Project Coordinator in Orange County for the ACLU of Southern California.
The report advocates first and foremost for closure of the Santa Ana City Jail. In its place, the report explains how the City could implement a community-based reentry center. As Santa Ana also is a sanctuary city that previously operated one of the most notorious immigration detention facilities in the country, the report also encourages the City to create a Revolving Immigration Detention Bond Fund so that any resident picked up and detained by ICE will have access to financial support to pay their immigration bond and be reunited with their family. The Bond Fund would complement the work the City has already done to fund Universal Representation.
“Our report makes it clear that that jail-specific revenues fail to cover the operating costs of the Santa Ana City Jail. The City of Santa Ana has been operating its jail at a multi-million dollar deficit each year, even before the cancellation of the city’s contract with ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). This moment presents an opportunity for the City to put itself on a more stable fiscal footing by replacing the jail with a community-based reentry center,” said Michael Russo, Associate Director of Equity in Public Funds at the Advancement Project.
The City will be hearing public comment on the jail reuse issue at the next City Council meeting on February 20, 2018. Resilience Orange County and community leaders will hold a press conference in front of city hall at 5:00pm on February 20th.
CIVIC is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of California. CIVIC has extensive experience in assessing immigration detention conditions, working with the LGBTQI community, and developing and implementing alternative to detention programs. CIVIC has affiliated visitation programs at over 40 immigration detention facilities nationwide. These programs allow volunteers to build one-on-one relationships with people in immigration detention to provide a connection to the outside world and assess immigration detention conditions on a weekly basis. CIVIC has been visiting and assessing conditions at the Santa Ana City Jail since 2012. You can learn more at www.endisolation.org.
Torti Gallas + Partners
Torti Gallas + Partners was established in 1953 and maintains a global practice of planning, architecture and urban design with offices in Los Angeles, California, Silver Spring, Maryland, Washington, DC, Tampa, Florida and Istanbul, Turkey. The firm is one of the largest planning and architectural firms in the United States dedicated to advancing the principles of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth to meet the challenges of our time. Torti Gallas has extensive experience with all scales of master planning and building projects in the residential, mixed-use, transit-oriented, and commercial markets, applying jurisdictional needs and code requirements in local, national and international markets. With extensive experience in the public and private sectors, Torti Gallas takes pride in balancing the diverse needs of communities with the realities of the marketplace to arrive at buildable solutions that bring value to our clients and to the communities in which we work. In applying this successful, market-focused balance, Torti Gallas has designed over 475,000 residential units and planned over 1,500 residential and mixed-use communities. Learn more at http://www.tortigallas.com/home.
Advancement Project California
Advancement Project is a next generation, multiracial civil rights organization. In California, the organization champions the struggle for greater equity and opportunity for all, fostering upward mobility in communities most impacted by economic and racial injustice. Advancement Project California builds alliances and trust, uses data-driven policy solutions, creates innovative tools, and works alongside communities to ignite social transformation. For more information, visit www.advancementprojectca.org.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend the principles of liberty and equality embodied in the Constitution and our nation’s civil rights laws. Learn more at www.aclusocal.org.
The California Endowment provided funding for this report.