In March 2016, APBCo joined a group of organizations protesting some of the practices and policies at one of the country’s largest immigration detention centers, the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia (view letter here). Stewart is located in a remote area and the only hope for counsel that detainees have is pro bono assistance from attorneys in the Atlanta area, nearly 150 miles away. Unfortunately, the Stewart facility was employing policies and practices that make pro bono representation nearly impossible. Problems ranged from, among other things, refusing to allow counsel to schedule meetings with clients in advance, preventing detainees from calling their counsel, and making trips to Stewart extremely inefficient by forcing attorneys to wait several hours to meet with their clients. We asked that the officials at Stewart implement corrective measures, many of which were already called for by the contract between Stewart County and ICE.
One of our most important requests to alleviate these injustices was to have Stewart start using a video teleconferencing (VTC) system. We are gratified to announce that earlier this month, in response to the coalition’s concerns, Stewart implemented a VTC system. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this system, which allows attorneys to conduct hour-long confidential meetings with their clients via skype, is the first of its kind in the country. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is viewing the system as a pilot program that may be expanded to other areas of the country. (Attached is a guide to scheduling VTC appointments at the Stewart Detention Center.)