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The Shut Down Etowah campaign is made up of individuals and civil, immigrant, and human rights organizations based in Alabama and across the country that are committed to ending the human rights abuses at the Etowah County Detention Center. We believe Etowah is far too broken to be fixed—the only adequate solution is to close it.
The Etowah County Detention Center located in Gadsden, AL, currently houses approximately 300 male immigration detainees, pursuant to a contract between Etowah County and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigration detainees in the county jail. Organizations like Detention Watch Network and the Women’s Refugee Commission have exposed the abuses and rampant human rights violations that have occurred inside Etowah, labeling it “among the worst” immigration detention centers in the country (click button below for more information). The detention center has repeatedly proven itself incapable of implementing necessary reforms to protect the basic personal safety of detainees in its care and comply with constitutional and internal ICE standards. Detainees at Etowah experience extremely inadequate medical care and nutrition, physical and verbal abuse, and prolonged detention in violation of Supreme Court precedent. They are kept indoors 24/7 with no access to outdoor recreation; visitation is only by videophone, and like other jails and detention centers, phone prices are exorbitant. The vast majority of detainees come from communities far away from Alabama, and some are longtime U.S. residents with deep family and community ties. Some detainees fear persecution or torture if returned to the countries where they were born; others are stateless or come from countries that lack diplomatic ties with the U.S. Detainees are sent to Etowah to distance them from their families, legal advocates, and support networks. Etowah County charges ICE among the lowest per diem prices in the country, so ICE treats Etowah as a warehouse for longer-term detainees. Regardless of their pasts, none of the men in immigration detention at Etowah are serving time—they are being caged merely to ensure their attendance at their immigration court hearings or because they are subject to a removal order, which they may be actively fighting in the courts.