The Phoenix Flyer

Civil-rights groups accuse south FL detention center of deleting video amid allegations of ‘inhumane’ treatment

By: - January 24, 2022 5:35 pm

Credit: Iuoman/Getty Images

A Glades County jail being used as a federal detention center is illegally destroying video footage that could substantiate reports of abuse of migrants held there, according to complaint filed Monday by civil-rights organizations.

Glades County is in rural, inland south Florida just west of Lake Okeechobee. The complaint is a letter to federal agencies that threaten legal action, according to the organizations.

“We have obtained evidence that Glades is deleting facility surveillance video every 90 days due to alleged resource limitations, despite an ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] contractual requirement to retain the video for three years; a January 2021 ICE directive instructing all Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”) detention facilities ‘to retain all video surveillance data . . . until further notice’; and pending public records requests seeking surveillance video from 2020 and 2021,” says a letter demanding relief by March 10 from ICE Director Tae Johnson and United States Archivist David Ferriero.

The demand for access to the deleted video and preservation of new video is filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog that has been monitoring abuse allegations in migrant detention centers as reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias, based in Miami, said by phone Monday afternoon that ICE officials were reviewing the allegations and demands and had nothing yet to say about it. Yglesias also declined to comment on how many migrants are detained at the facility, the range of charges against them, or legal requirements on preserving surveillance video.

The ACLU and CREW alleges that detainees are subjected to inhumane treatment which could be corroborated by surveillance video.

“The video being deleted may contain key evidence needed to vindicate the rights of immigrants detained at Glades – a facility with conditions so inhumane that eight members of Congress recently called on the Biden administration to ‘expeditiously . . . terminate [ICE’s] contract with Glades County and close this facility’,” the complaint says.

“It is shameful that ICE appears to be comfortable with keeping the public in the dark about abuses taking place in one of its detention centers,” said CREW Senior Counsel Nikhel Sus in a press statement. “If Glades continues to break the law, ICE must terminate its contract with the center.”

In the statement, Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at ACLU Florida, added, “These problems are systemic and longstanding, and if history has proven anything, Glades County will likely continue to fail to address these issues and meet federal requirements. If that proves true, then a court must compel Glades to follow these critical protocols, and the facility must finally be shut down.”

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]