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This Sunday’s text is Acts 16:16-34, and the Working Preacher commentary can be found here. We’re meeting Paul and Silas in prison.
I recently traveled to Lumpkin, Georgia, to the ICE civil prison called the Stewart Detention Center. Most of my undocumented neighbors picked up by Immigration, Control and Enforcement end up in this “civil” prison, even though it’s 8 hours away.
Detention - Center - Prison - Prison - Idea
Somehow calling it a detention center makes it sound less like the prison it is. And somehow calling it a prison invites you into the idea that the people there are criminals. But that’s not right. It is a prison, overcrowded, money-making, owned by a corporation. It’s a “civil” prison though, because most of the detainees there have not been convicted of a crime. Any right to a trial, to due process, has often been denied, because of their immigration status.
The detainees are housed, segregated by the accusations against them (accusations not proven in a court of law) in red jumpsuits, orange jumpsuits, khaki jumpsuits, blue jumpsuits. Red ones say you’re the “worst of the worst.” Blue says you’re a low risk.
Food - Boxes - Consumption
They are fed food shipped in boxes that say, “Not fit for human consumption.”
They are denied medical attention, or given shoddy medical care. Several weeks ago a healthy 33 year old man died of pneumonia.
Isolation - Confinement
The are held in isolation. Solitary confinement.
And one of the most disturbing facts of this civil prison is that there is a problem with the water supply. When there is water, it’s black. And when there is not water, sometimes it’s days, there’s no water for drinking, for cooking, for showering. When the detainees point it out, the authorities say, “We’re working on it.” But it doesn’t ever change.
Prison is dehumanizing to the detained.
Prison is dehumanizing to those who detain. I looked around that prison...
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