by Cindy Knoebel
"The officer grabbed my hand and foot and took me out of the dorm. The officer’s hand kept hitting my face on the ground and then they dragged me, picked me up and slammed me on the floor. My head kept hitting the floor. They then placed me in handcuffs and took me to confinement."
The above statement from Kevin Brown, detained at Glades County Detention Center, appeared in a February 22 Miami Herald article. He and another Jamaican man, Kemar Williams were placed in solitary confinement on February 10 - and are still there 22 days later.
Yesterday, March 4, Immigrant Action Alliance and Freedom for Immigrants filed a complaint on behalf of both men, stating that they believed they were placed in solitary confinement in response to testimony provided for a civil rights complaint previously filed on February 22 by the two organizations and seven others.
According to the March 4th complaint, both Brown and Williams were harmed in the act of being taken to solitary confinement. Both experienced severe use of force. Williams reported to Immigrant Action Alliance on February 12 that he had been “badly beaten, maced and locked in confinement.” On February 12, another person detained at Glades also texted Immigrant Action Alliance to report that “Kemar Williams was strategically and intentionally brought to medical, where there are no cameras, to put him in confinement” because he was “speaking out” about conditions at Glades. On February 15, Brown reported by phone that he had also been taken to solitary on February 10 and his head had been dragged on the ground.
After Brown said that he would report Glades’ abuses to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—which it is his right to do—a jail sergeant beat him, pepper sprayed him, and then put him in confinement. Williams was also pepper sprayed; both men have documented histories of respiratory conditions. (Brown has bronchitis and Williams has asthma.)
Both men have shared with Immigrant Action Alliance separately that the stated reason they were placed in solitary confinement centered on a dispute over access to hygiene products during which each was alleged to have one extra roll of toilet paper. Brown was also alleged to have one extra laundry bag. During a search of their belongings, a guard placed her foot on food Brown had just purchased from commissary. He told her, “you can’t do that.” He was then told to step outside of the dorm, but because stepping outside would mean stepping away from the cameras, he verbally refused, fearing what would happen to him out of view of the cameras.
In a hearing that did not take place until 15 days after he had been confined, Brown was charged with "conduct that disrupts" and told he would be in confinement for 30 days.
According to the UN, isolated confinement that lasts over 15 days is excessive and should be prohibited. The complaint notes that "solitary confinement leads to mental suffering, and per the UN 'it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.'”
Mr. Brown’s Fraihat release request was submitted on December 28, and Mr. Williams’ was submitted January 14. Their release requests have been ignored, despite repeated follow-up correspondence from Immigrant Action Alliance and both men’s families, and despite the fact that the terms of the Fraihat motion to enforce state that “only in rare cases should the [custody] determination take longer than a week.”
Because of the length of time in solitary, and the violence, abuse and threats he has experienced at Glades, Kemar Williams he has decided to waive his due process rights to pursue his immigration case and to take voluntary departure instead. “It’s not a hard case to fight,” he told Immigrant Action Alliance by phone on March 2 about his immigration case, “but I am not safe here. This is a racist place. I am in fear for my life.” He then mentioned that he has five kids and fears what would happen to them if he died or suffered permanent injury at Glades and could not provide for them. “It is best for me to go,” he said.
The complaint, signed by Rebecca Talbot of Glades Lead Immigrant Action Alliance and Sofia Cassini, Director for Advocacy and Visitation Strategies at Freedom for Immigrants, demands that "Brown and Williams be released from solitary confinement immediately, that the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties conduct an investigation into the excessive use of force they experienced, and that both men be evaluated immediately for release on Fraihat.