Lawmakers push for inspections at Tacoma's ICE detention center
A couple years ago, the Washington state legislature passed a bill outlawing private detention facilities. That law is tied up in legal proceedings.
Lawmakers have now passed new legislation that will mandate privately owned or operated detention facilities meet the same standards as public ones.
"The legislature finds that profit motives lead private prisons and detention facilities to cut operational costs, including the provision of food, health care, and rehabilitative services, because their primary fiduciary duty is to maximize shareholder profits," state lawmakers wrote in the legislation.
"This is in stark contrast to the interests of the state to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of Washingtonians."
The state has one privately run facility — Tacoma’s immigration detention center. Lawmakers say problems there have continued over the years, prompting detainee hunger strikes. Detainees have refused to eat in order to protest a lack of cleanliness, adequate food and other poor conditions. The detention center is run by GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the country.
The new legislation outlines a set of standards for the facility and gives the state Department of Health and Department of Labor and Industries the authority to conduct regular, unannounced inspections. Lawmakers say the facility needs to be clean, offer laundry services, food and basic hygiene products such as toothbrushes and soap – or risk being fined. It also requires the maintenance of safe indoor air quality and temperatures.
“We can't let people make money off of inhumane practices, not in this state,” said State Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, who sponsored the bill.
Ortiz-Self added that once released, detainees can also sue based on violations in the facility.
The bill awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.