Dozens testify against the Wyatt in Senate Committee meeting

Also: Senate Oversight Committee examines Providence Public Schools hiring practices in the wake of an alleged predatory action toward a minor by former Providence School Administrator Olayinka Alege…
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Published on May 18, 2021
By Uprise RI

5pm Senate Committee on Finance and Senate Committee on Judiciary

Dozens of Rhode Island residents called in to a State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday to testify in favor of a slate of bills that would end all business with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the State of Rhode Island, as well as eventually shut down the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. Over 30 people sent in written testimony in favor of the legislation.

“To allow private prisons to continue to operate in Rhode Island represents a total disavowal of the people we choose to put into prison,” said Elizabeth Saldaña. “It means that we have no problem with outsourcing our responsibilities to both our communities and incarcerated people, rather than taking on the difficult work of offering those punished a new chance on life and helping victims, their families, and loved ones find healing. Not only do we wash our hands of everyone touched by the harms of criminal justice, we allow others to earn a profit off of it. This is, frankly, an expensive and immoral practice that cannot continue in RI. We deserve better, and so do those affected by the criminal justice system.

“Please pass these bills out of committee to shut down private prisons in RI.”

The bills, S0400, S0399, S0248, and S0394, would forbid any future business with ICE by any local or state government in Rhode Island, as well as make it impossible for the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls to continue operations once its current ICE contract ends. The bills were introduced by Senator Jonathan Acosta (Democrat, District 16, Central Falls), a former Central Falls City Councilmember who was among those who voted to end the city’s contract with ICE. [See: Central Falls lawmakers introduce legislation to shut down the Wyatt]

“Today, we choose to punish people for the ‘crime’ of fleeing danger and unlivable poverty in their home counties,” said Rachel Bishop, MPH. “The Wyatt Detention Facility is nationally known to be a place of torturous conditions for innocent people. Freezing cells, uncontrolled COVID 19, a pattern of violent and unaccountable retaliation from guards from those inside stand up for their basic rights. Such a place is a shame on Rhode Island and has no place here, or anyway in a country claiming to embrace freedom. It must be closed.”

Most of the testimony invoked the deep moral cost of profiting from the misery of prisons and ICE detention, and many brought up Wyatt’s financial problems – the facility has repeatedly failed to meet the revenue promises made upon its construction, and is costing the city of Central Falls money.

“Privatized prisons are strongly motivated to provide substandard services, as this again increases their profits. They are less likely to provide a nutritious and varied diet to inmates,” said Dr. Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur “Investigative journalists have found that privatized prisons serve spoiled food, food scavenged from the trash, and food infested with maggots. Privatized prisons also provide fewer rehabilitative and educational programs and do less to prepare inmates for re-entry, as well as doing less to prevent trauma from impacting inmates. They reduce contacts between inmates and their families and support networks outside the prison by limiting visits, moving inmates far away from their families, and charging exorbitant rates for telecommunications services.”

Also at the Rhode Island State house on Monday:

5:30pm Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight

The Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight met to examine the Providence Public School District’s administrative hiring practices. The hearing was requested by the Providence delegation in the Senate after the alleged predatory actions toward a minor by former Providence School Administrator Olayinka Alege recently came to light.

The committee examined the Providence Public School District’s administrative hiring practices, background checking, and personal conduct incident response protocols and review procedures.

1pm House Committee on Oversight

3pm House Committee on Veterans Affairs

3:30pm Senate Committee on Labor

4pm House Committee on State Government & Elections

4pm Joint Committee on State Lottery

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