Lawsuit alleges Baker County Detention Center denied attorneys access to immigration detainees

The ACLU of Florida, which accuses the Baker County Sheriff’s Office of ‘gross’ conditions for immigrants held at the county’s detention center, filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging officials blocked attorneys from accessing to their customers in the establishment.

The trialfiled in federal court in Jacksonville, names the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Scotty Rhoden, and two principal aides and alleges breach of the office’s liability under a custody agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement United to allow access to customers.

The complaint alleges violation of the ACLU’s First Amendment right to speak to its potential clients and witnesses, as well as the clients’ right to speak with the organization; retaliation against the organization and its clients; and the denial of his clients’ Fourteenth Amendment right to the courts, to counsel, and to due process.

He seeks a declaration that the North Florida Sheriff violated the Constitution and a ban on doing so in the future, as well as “appropriate compensatory, punitive and nominal damages”, attorneys’ fees and costs. and “any other relief the court deems just and proper.”

The ACLU alleges that Baker County Detention Center officials canceled, on two days’ notice, a scheduled September 9 visit to the facility by ACLU attorneys and students at the clinics. law school immigration to teach immigrants about their legal rights and to talk to people. customers on their records.

The lawyer who showed up anyway was turned away at the entrance to the establishment. The jail is located in Macclenny, about 30 miles west of Jacksonville.

The ACLU is concerned that additional attorney-client meetings scheduled for this Friday could also be canceled, even though the sheriff’s office and federal immigration authorities had authorized those visits, according to the document.

“A central aspect of the work of the ACLU of Florida is to protect and advocate for the rights of immigration detainees,” the complaint states.

“Defendants’ denial of access to the ACLU of Florida customers and potential customers at Baker hampers the organization’s ability to accomplish this mission. The ACLU of Florida must be given the opportunity to meet confidentially with individuals who report abusive or inhumane conditions while in ICE custody to investigate their complaints, defend their rights, and pursue legal action. .

Previous Complaints

The lawsuit follows an administrative complaint the ACLU filed with the Department of Homeland Security on Sept. 14 alleging mistreatment of immigration detainees, including physical assault, retaliation, and denial of medical treatment. basic.

The ACLU also accuses the bureau of withholding water from hunger strike participants over conditions and denial of access to helplines run by the federal government and immigrant rights groups.

The organization suggested that the cancellation of the visit was linked to a separate administrative complaint filed against Baker in July.

The Phoenix left a request for comment with the sheriff’s office but has yet to receive a response. In August, in an interview with News4Jax, Sheriff Rhoden denied any abuse. “These are all lies because we take it seriously here at the Baker County Sheriff’s Office to treat people the way they should be treated at all times,” he said.

The ACLU launched the Baker Legal Assistance Program with immigration clinics at the University of Florida Law Schools, Florida State University and the University of Miami, according to a news release.

“According to Florida Detention Databasethere have been 86 complaints citing barriers to accessing legal aid in Baker since 2017. For more than a decade, multiple complaints from the Baker County Detention Center have been filed, exposing a deep-rooted pattern of widespread human rights violations and inhumane living conditions,” the organization said.

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