An Officer’s Perspective on Life Inside MTC’s Imperial Regional Detention Facility

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Annette Spencer is an officer at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico, California. She’s worked here for three years; before that, she was in the army. She wanted the opportunity to show the public what life is like for the men and women detained by Immigration & Customs Enforcement at this facility.

She takes us into a male housing unit and explains that the men have access to TVs, telephones, video conferencing, and various other activities.

Each housing unit also has an adjoining recreation yard.

“[They can] play basketball, play mini soccer, play volleyball,” says Annette. “They’re able to come here and work out.”

The Imperial facility also has a large recreation yard.

“They’re able to play kickball. They’re able to play soccer. We have a volleyball station right here.”

Annette knows there is misinformation in the public about the conditions at detention facilities. Some critics allege poor treatment of detainees.

“That’s not what we do here at IRDF [Imperial Regional Detention Facility]. We’re here for the safety and security of every individual that we have here. We make sure that they get fed. We provide them with medical care when they need it.”

Detainees have access to nurses and doctors in this dedicated medical department. They can even see a dentist which Annette says may sound like basic care, but it isn’t for a lot of these individuals.

“Some of them have said they have never seen a dentist because they don’t have the money. And here, they’re able to get it for free.”

Detainees also have access to legal resources, court rooms, and various educational classes. Annette says officers have a great rapport with the men and women.

“We show them respect, they show us respect.”

She says positive relationships with detainees is important.

“It makes their time go by a little faster here. It helps them hope. Everybody’s going through something. They’re away from their family. They’re away from their friends. They’re human beings just like us. And if I’m able to help them out, I will help them out. I love my job. I love helping people. I love that I make difference in people’s lives. You don’t know what they’re going through and by us just saying hello to them, it makes a big difference.”