Two women’s testimonies and a complaint with 27 signatures reveal a pattern of abusive conditions at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA

Women being detained at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, California, sent the above complaint to [Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement]( (CIVIC) in September. It reads:

We are being treated differently. A county inmate asked to use a book to study for the GED and that inmate’s request was granted. When I asked to borrow another copy of the book for the same reason Ms. Astee denied my request. When we are on lockdown and a county inmate needs to use the restroom, she is unlocked so that she can use it. When an ICE inmate asks, we are always told to either hold it, or to use a “red bag” — Bio Hazard Bag. This is unacceptable.

On the reverse side 27 women signed their names (blurred to protect them from retaliation per their wishes):

In addition, two women at WCDF wish to share their testimonies with the public:

Hello, I’m Nancy J Mayer. I write you for several reasons:

  1. Deputies don’t give us all the free times (They skip some free times).
  2. They (deputies) yell at us like we are kids (They treat us like cockroaches, only the immigrants).
  3. The major workers change the food and the deputies know about it and they don’t do nothing.
  4. There are immigrants that don’t speak English and the deputies yell at them and treat us bad.
  5. They lock for count and if we have to use the bathroom they don’t unlock the door, but sometimes they open to county inmates, not ICE. Some girls had to poop in plastic bags inside the room or in the trash can.
  6. The don’t give us toilet paper, shampoo or first aid kit (sometimes).
  7. Definitely they don’t like ICE inmates.

Otherwise they segregated me because I help my community (immigrants) and I’m an open lesbian so they said I’m the leader and also they said I have a relationship with another ICE inmate so they put me in the worker’s room which is a pod on the other side. I’m really upset because they don’t have any proof, they said we can move you to any room without notice. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m in despair because our voice is not listened to.

All this makes me sick. I’m seeing a psychiatrist. I have nightmares. I feel pursued by them (deputies). I know they are watching me all the time. People tell me it’s not me. My friends tell me how they treat me different.

Last month my mom was really sick. She was in ICU multiple times in hospitals while she was dying. I tried to get a humanitarian bond, but the judge and deportation officer denied it, so I asked the deputy if I could use the phone to call my mom. Maybe that was the last call I would make (she was really sick) so they didn’t let me. The deputy asked the lieutenant and he said no. I really want to sue them. But I don’t know if that would affect my case (I’m asking for asylum), or if they can send me to Yuba (different facility). I don’t want to because I’m studying D.E.U.C.E. and parenting classes. I want to finish them. Also people say my name is on the hot list which means they can send me to Yuba or Mesa Verde (in Bakersfield). I don’t know what to do. Please help me. Send to the TV news or something because I’m not going to give up.

I’m still a human, not a number.

Thank you for listening to my story and letting me know if I can sue them or if you know an attorney to help me. Thank you so much. Hope you understand everything. P.S. Sorry for my English I learned just a year and a half ago.

Nancy’s original letter:

Source: CIVIC

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Dear Public,

My name is Anonymous. I write this letter to you people with the intention to receive your support by making known the issues we go through in ICE detention. The majority of us, ICE detainees, do not count with support for our rights to be respected and enforced the by the staff in the jail.

I went through a situation where my life was at risk and I was not taken seriously. Instead I was treated as an issue. ICE have us housed in a county jail; which is a system run for people that are suspected of committing a crime. According to ICE officers, we are not detained for committing a crime we are just in custody because of our legal status, but we are treated worse than county inmates by the county jail staff. The ICE agency should not have us housing with people suspected for a crime; in this case ICE detainees face discrimination by deputies and inmates.

I wanted to speak up to be heard, to be understood and supported. For over two months I was afraid to speak up because of repercussions but I’m tired of being treated like I have no rights on a daily basis.

In May, 2017, my cellmate, also an ICE detainee, was attacked by a county inmate named A. who was in permanent lockdown next to our cell. It was known by our Deputies and also said by them that A. is aggressive and that they know she has history of popping locks. A. was supposed to be on lockdown 23 hours after release. A. was not permitted in population, inside the jail.

During the attack, I was the only eye witness because A. went into our cell. When she started punching my cellmate, I was in the middle between A. and my cellmate. I moved from between them and yelled at A. to stop punching her and I ran out and called the Deputies. My cellmate was brutally beaten by inmate A. While she was still being beaten by A. and the Deputies were on their way, my cellmate lost consciousness for a few seconds as the damage was on her face and head. After my cellmate and A. were handcuffed and taken away, I was told to go and wash my hands if I got any blood from my cellmate’s wounds on me.

My cellmate was taken to a lockdown room on the first floor and I was told to go back to my cell. While my cellmate was taking care of her injuries and giving her testimony, I also thought that I was to give my testimony because I was the only eye witness, but I was never asked to do so. While I was still in my cell, county inmates started to talk and yell through the windows that I was the person who snitched (because I was the one who called the Deputies), and that they were going to jump me and beat me up. Deputy C. was talking with my cellmate in the lockdown room (Deputy C. also was the front deputy on our side of the unit that day), he also heard the threats of the girls through the window. My cellmate told him about what the girls were saying but deputy C. ignored the issue.

Then, when my cellmate was being put in the lockdown room by Deputy N., she told Deputy N. about the issue with the threats that were being made towards me. To resolve the issue, I was put in lockdown too with my cellmate. According to them, I was put in lockdown for safety issues. I tried to tell the Deputies about who the inmates were who made the threats (because when I heard them through the window I recognized them), they wouldn’t let me talk and cut me off.

The same inmates who made the threats were the ones who brought food to the lockdown room where my cellmate and I were. On the third day of being in lockdown, my cellmate was sent to San Francisco to be seen by her lawyer due to the incident. Deputy C. tried of bribe her into signing a document giving up her right to press charges against the attacker and he would let her call her attorney, but she denied to sign anything without her attorney viewing it. So the Deputy got mad and was being very disrespectful to her and did not allow her to call her attorney.

On the day my cellmate was in San Francisco, I got to come out for my 1 hour of free time by myself — the only people out there were the workers and two other females that volunteer to help the workers. These two females and one of the other actual workers (county inmates) were the ones that made the threats against me. They were following me to corner me where the Deputy and the video camera couldn’t see. So I tried to stay were the I was visible because every time I tried to go to the deputy desk they would block my way.

These 3 females approached me, threatening me and saying that if I did not stop my cellmate from pressing charges against A. they were going to beat both of us up. Also, because I told the deputies about the fight. They wanted my head off, but if I helped them with my cellmate they were going to leave us alone.

I was scared for my life because the deputy never saw that I was being harassed, and I saw how easy it was for the inmates to harm me and how the Deputies were not taking the matter seriously.

I decided to call my attorney to let him know what was happening but all the times I tried to call, the Deputies would make an excuse to not allow me to make my phone call. I was obliged to stay in lockdown for two weeks.

Another reason why I consider that the situation was not taken seriously is because the lockdown we were put in was across from A.’s lockdown room and on the incident report it was written that we were put in a lockdown room on the opposite side of the building. The Deputies knew that A. was able to pop her lock and attack both of us this time. It’s mandatory that when there is a fight that the two people involved in the fight be separated by putting one on the opposite side of the building. Another lie Deputy C. wrote on the incident report to cover himself from his error is that he wrote that A.’s door was open because her cellmate was at an attorney visit. If the rest of detainees are not allowed to have their doors open when we have attorney visits, why would a person that is not allowed in jail population have their door opened? So Deputy C. was trying to cover his error of not making sure that the lockdown doors were securely locked.

On the day of the attack, my cellmate was not seen by medical staff as needed. The next day, she asked to see medical staff due to her having a really bad headache. After being seen by the facility medical staff, she was taken to the hospital. It was found that she had a broken nose because of the attack.

Deputies have her hospital paperwork. That paperwork was supposed to be given to the facility’s medical staff because she was to be taken back to the hospital within 5 days. However, she was not taken to the hospital and still to this day her nose has not been fixed.

Another mistreatment we received from Deputies while we were in lockdown was by Deputy Z. When she was on shift she would not give me and my cellmate our one hour of free time to come out to shower, use the phone, to use utilities to clean the room, etc. My cellmate and I had to ask the night shift guard to at least let us shower.

Also, on other occasions Deputy “El Gallo” (he makes ICE detainees call him that) was doing count and he would pass by our door, kick our door, and yell “Go back to Mexico!” followed by making fun of me and my cellmate that we were scared of other inmates.

These are some of the many situations ICE detainees have to go through and they are afraid to complain or speak up about the mistreatment that is given to us because of repercussions from Deputies.

One of the most important of the many issues is when the Deputies make excuses to not let us call our lawyers, whereas the Deputies have to dial the number while we wait by the phone. Sometimes the Deputies are just talking and not doing anything but don’t want to get up or be interrupted so they say, “Not right now,” or “Go away.” Sometimes they say they already made too many calls and we have to wait for the next shift.

For us ICE detainees it’s necessary to make calls because lawyers sometimes give us a certain day and time to call them because that’s when the attorney is able to be in their office, or has something really important to communicate to their client. As to these excuses, I have missed appointments via telephone with my attorney where I needed such information before going to court. I consider this as one of our rights. Their excuses deny us our right to contact our attorneys.

And from certain Deputies, we face racial discrimination.

We are prohibited to speak our native language (Spanish is what the majority speaks). Deputy J. is the one who enforces it. If she hears anybody near her speaking Spanish she’ll go search and trash that person’s room and use insignificant reasons for the person be put in lockdown.

Also, Deputy J. makes remarks to ICE detainees who are bilingual such as, “Deport yourselves already, why are you fighting to stay here, we don’t want you.”

To my point of view, this is so unprofessional of her because her job is to take care of us and the needs we have due to our incarcerated condition. She’s not being paid to come and make her discriminating and racial remarks to ICE detainees. This is not the only issue with Deputy J. as well with other Deputies.

We often get denied having toilet paper and hygiene items, soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste. The federal government gives money to Homeland Security and Homeland Security pays the facility to supply ICE detainees with hygiene items, but because of the Deputies’ discrimination we get neglected. Many ICE detainees don’t have help or support of people from the outside to help provide them with what they need.

To my concern I think we only want to be treated with respect. I’m not only speaking for myself but for all of us, ICE detainees who are incarcerated and are in fear of our superiors by the way they treat us.

We have our many strong reasons like our children, fear for our lives in our home countries, or a dream for a better life, but because of our fear we put up with this mistreatment, believing that it will end soon.

This is why I ask for your support for us, please, so that people who are being detained because of their legal states can have less suffering. Thank you for taking your time to read this.

-Sincerely, Anonymous

Editor’s Note: These testimonies have been lightly edited for clarity. While we prefer not to use the terms “detainee” or “inmate” as we find them dehumanizing, we want to honor the original content of these testimonies as much as possible.