Thursday, November 22, 2012

Armed, Dangerous Criminal Gang Holding Tucson Man Since April, Conditions Worsen

New PCSO deputies are left to right: David Gholson, Lucia Lozoya, Larry LaSalvia, Fernando Ruiz Jr., Sheriff Paul Babeu, Joseph Kurcsics, Cassandra Edmondson, Roland Tipton and Landon Berryman.
Sheriff Paul Babe with Pinal County, Arizona deputies, 2011

"I'm stretching really bad right here, really depressed.  I'm in this county jail and it's really terrible because the officers right here are from county, not from ICE.  The people from this county, these guards, treat us like inmates."  --Tucscon resident and U.S. citizen Esteban Tiznado, November 13, 2012, in deportation proceedings and now solitary confinement. 

Pinal County, Arizona receives a $13 million annual contract from Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite long-standing documentation by government, media, and legal organizations of massive and sustained civil rights violations and calls to end contract with Pinal County Jail.  

County budget summary lists ICE contract as the sole source of increased revenues; property taxes go down as ICE contracts go up, from $839,791 in 2006 to $11,600,000 for 2009-2010--see Pinal County Budget, 2009-10, p. 309.   


Last Thanksgiving I wrote here about Tucson resident Esteban Tiznado being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a jury found him Not Guilty of Illegal Reentry because of the copious evidence of his U.S. citizenship.  (For other posts on Tiznado, please go here.)  He's been waiting for over six months for an immigration hearing, as have thousands of others held in this area.  Worse, since September he's been put in solitary confinement.

In a pattern following the lack of due process documented by the National Immigrant Justice Center recent report, Tiznado was put here after a misunderstanding with a guard and Tiznado's request that she speak without spitting in his face.  The "hearing" to adjudicate this was a sham and he's now in the middle of a three month sentence to "the hole."

According to Tiznado, around September 14,
 I was taking a shower and heard what I thought was a guard calling my number.  I asked, 'Did you call my cell?'  She said, 'You don't have to be yelling from shower.'  I told her,  'I thought you called my name.'  I was waiting for someone to see me from the Florence Project. She just started screaming and yelling and spitting in my face. I start getting mad.  Somebody spits in your face, you'd get mad, too.'  She says, 'I don't care.   I do whatever I want. I'm the one, I run this place.'  I say, 'I'm not saying you don't run this place. I'm saying you're spitting in my face.'  She says,  'I'm going to send you to the hole. Go get your stuff.'
A sentence to solitary requires a hearing.  But it's strictly pro forma. For Tiznado, this meant a quick conversation with a sergeant who confirmed the fix was in.   "She said she was going to find me guilty," according to Tiznado, "I told her, please look up the camera video so you can see I wasn't doing nothing.'  She said, 'I don't have to see the video because I'm not on your side.  I'm on the side of the guard."


"You're just in the room 24 hours," Tiznado says.  But it's not just that.  The punishment for requesting to be treated like a human being means Tiznado cannot buy food to supplement the garbage he receives for meals.  He described breakfasts of a freezing cold boiled egg and a piece of bologna, a lunch of beans and rice, with the beans barely cooked, and "sometimes the food comes with hairs."  In the general population Tiznado could buy some soup or candy, but now this is it.   

Tiznado is in the unusual position to compare among ICE facilities and says, "In Florence (Service Processing Center) they treated us real good," but the bottom line is that he can't figure out why he's locked up at all, "I feel like ICE, they just kidnapped me."

While the rest of the country is facing budget shortfalls and Tiznado is receiving inedible food, Pinal County is receiving $13 million from ICE, even though their facilities are regularly condemned for these and many other abuses.  (For history of Pinal County's documented violations of its ICE contracts and links, see Matthew Hendly, June 2012 Phoenix New Times update.)
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