“This is probably the best detention center that I’ve ever walked through” Says Department of Justice Staff after Tour of the Imperial Facility

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The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) organization recently toured the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, along with members of the Department of Justice. After touring & meeting with staff, Sandra Henriquez, CEO of CALCASA, and Stacy Phillips with the Department of Justice were interviewed separately.  The following are excerpts from their interviews.

Sandra Henriquez:

I just toured the facility today, and really, really appreciate not only that the facility is extremely clean, but also the general overall feel of the facility, that a lot of the folks that work here seem to really, really care.  And seem to be here beyond just doing their work.  They care about the detainees that are here.  It’s evident through the friendliness of the staff.  The way that the staff are interacting.

Stacy Phillips:

I’ve just taken an amazing tour here at Imperial County, and I am thoroughly impressed with not just the cleanliness of the facility, and the openness of it, and the people that work here; when you walk through the facility, it’s a very welcoming feel that it has.

Sandra Henriquez:

Really appreciated the tour, the sense of openness here in terms of the facility itself and the way that its built out.

Stacy Phillips:

There are murals in several of the rooms, multi-purpose rooms and different halls that people are staying in that gives a very trauma-informed feel.  The library has a ton of different books and computers.  There are posters throughout the different walls in the different rooms for PREA standards, giving the detainees ways to access services.  There are posters of the different programs they offer, from cake baking and weaving and crocheting, offering programs to the detainees.  And you can just get a different feeling when you’re walking through the facility that the people here actually do genuinely care about the well- being of the individuals who are staying here.

Sandra Henriquez:

There seems to be a lot of feeling of camaraderie here among the detainees.  I know that some of the programming is things like crocheting, things like the cake decorating and baking program, are here to engage the detainees and to have them not only develop skills while here, but also have a sense of purpose.

Stacy Phillips:

There are posters on the walls which say ‘BIONIC’ which is Believe it or Not I Care, and believe it or not, I believe that they care.  When you meet them they’re smiling and they genuinely show passion and concern for what’s going on here.  And as you walk through the facility, the people are introducing themselves to you, they’re looking you in the eye, they’re shaking your hand, and they are open, happy, and you can feel that.  When you’re looking at the detainees they’re smiling, they don’t look like they’re suffering.  They look like they’re happy.  It’s just a different feel here.

Sandra Henriquez:

One more thing that I wanted to add is just how the detainees seem to be engaged in being a part of the programming.  There are murals in several locations that have been not only designed, but also painted by the detainees themselves.

Stacy Phillips:

I’ve walked through many different detention centers in my field and in my tenure of this field, and this is probably the best detention center that I’ve ever walked through.  Just the passion that you feel walking through it. It screams ‘I’m trauma-informed and I genuinely care about the people here.’