Testimony from Sister JoAnn Persch
Last week, Sister JoAnn Persch testified at the Illinois House of Representatives, advocating for lawmakers to block the construction of a private detention center in Crete, Illinois. The House passed SB1064 which would prevent counties from hiring private firms to run detention centers. Here are her words.
TESTIMONY FOR THE ILLINOIS HOUSE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
May 2, 2012
Good morning. My name is Sister JoAnn Persch and I am a Sister of Mercy. I along with my colleague, Sister Pat Murphy, because of our ministry, have had the opportunity to talk with immigrant detainees who have been held in many jails, prisons, and detention centers. We have learned that people are often mistreated in these facilities. Also, we have learned that each man and woman is a human person with his or her own story. Each is a person with human rights and civil rights which often are violated through their treatment in the facilities. Each person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We cannot bear the thought that a private company could be making profits from keeping people locked up – yet that is what CCA and other companies do.
Through our ministry we belong to three national networks who do work with immigrant detainees. As a part of these networks we are always proud to be from Illinois because our legislators have passed humane laws regarding immigration. We are envied because other States are passing inhumane laws. And, as part of these networks we have heard how people are treated in private centers across the country. There is often insufficient and non-nutritious food. We have heard about people not receiving medical care and in numbers of incidents this has resulted in death. All of these incidents are well documented.
In these private centers we have heard that the staff is also not treated well. There is lack of training or adequate supervision, and so the officers often result in violence and abuse in the handling of the detainees. Many of us have seen a video from Idaho showing an immigrant detainee being beaten while the correctional officers stand by and watch.
This is NOT what we want in Crete or anywhere else in Illinois or in our country. No one should profit from human misery. We need to stop CCA and companies like them from coming to Illinois.
I want to thank Senator Munoz and Representatives Acevedo and Hernandez for their leadership on this issue. I want to thank them for joining with us in telling CCA to