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5 Aug 2008

Julia Dahl, ABC News [USA]

Private Prison Co. Again Accused of Human Rights Abuses [USA]

Immigrants at a Washington State detention center run by the GEO Group...are being held in conditions that violate both international and U.S. law, says a new report released by the Seattle University School of Law and the human rights group OneAmerica. The report concludes that immigrants at the Northwest Detention Facility, including refugees and asylum seekers, are being held in "an atmosphere of intimidation" which includes verbal abuse, sexual harassment, strip searches, and poor to non-existent mental and physical health care. While the Northwest Detention Facility in Tacoma, Washington is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) it is run the GEO Group. This is not the first time GEO has been accused of violating the rights of inmates in its care...A spokesman for the GEO Group declined to speak about the report, stating, "As a matter of policy our company does not comment on third party allegations."...The report states that many detainees are not given adequate amounts of food...are prevented from openly discussing their cases with attorneys. ICE disputes the allegations in the report, saying it contains "numerous inaccuracies and vague references." The agency sent ABC News a detailed statement refuting specific allegations...The report, titled "Voices from Detention," details an incident last August when several hundred detainees at the facility fell ill with abdominal pain and diarrhea from food poisoning. [The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted GEO Group on 8 Sept. 2008. GEO Group replied saying that they have no further comment at this time.]