Thursday, April 10, 2008

Update on the Detention Center

The protest on Wednesday was amazing. Diverse community members came out and showed that they don't want private prisons in their back yard. Miriam Pena from CPC was the master of ceremonies. Emily Parkey from RAP spoke and Reverend Demmer gave the main speech.

Reverend Demmer highlighted the fact that the private prison group, GEO, doesn't have a contract with Immigration Control and Enforcement nor the Department of Corrections for building this facility. He spoke of how the facility could be used as a private prison or as immigration detention. Most importantly, he urged us to think about the morality of profiting off of others pain and suffering. There is a role for government in areas of the common good. Prisons are one such area. He spoke of how a multi-national corporation can build something like this with no contract and no predictor for use or need, simply because they are a corporation. He compared the plan to build this prison to the Field of Dreams; "If you build it, they will come". The problem with private prisons is that their business is to profit from imprisoning people. Rehabilitation would cut into their profits.

After the protest, we all went into the Planning Commission hearing. Testimony was heard both for and against the detention center/prison. The Planning Commission is an appointed judicial body and they are only allowed to consider testimony concerning 11 criteria, most of which were related to architecture and neighborhood impact.

One of the criteria is the relationship of any new building to Aurora's comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan cites Aurora's diversity and inclusion of the immigrant population as part of its values and goals. The Planning Commission did not accept the perspective of our testimony that this detention center works against those goals.

The Planning Commission did hear our complaints about the small waiting area. The size of the waiting area and the limit on the number of children allowed into visitation, have made for long waits outside the building for many families of those being detained. The new facility will not have any larger of a visitation area. The architect promised to work with the Commission to answer those complaints. The Planning Commission also followed up on questions about adequate natural light inside the detention center. The Commission unanimously approved the building plans for the center.

This was just one step in the process to prevent the construction of this center. Stay tuned for further meetings and actions over the next months as we continue to work with our allies for social justice!

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