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Berks County Family Detention Center

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Leesport Family Detention Center: 

The Unjust policy of locking up immigrant Children & their Mothers: 

Families fleeing extreme violence in Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) are migrating to the United States in search of refuge. Rather than providing protection, the United States detains women and children seeking asylum in family detention centers.  This is done in an attempt to stem the flow of asylum seeking women and children coming to the U.S. despite the U.S. government’s acknowledgement that the situation is so dire in those countries that they removed the Peace Corps volunteers. 

The state (PA Dept. of Human Services) decided to revoke the operating because the facility does not comply with the state statute.  Since February 21, 2016, the center has been operating without a license.   

Commissioners are appealing, using our tax dollars to pay the attorneys. The center is supposed to be nonprofit so the question is, why are they spending so much effort to appeal to keep open a facility that detains 2 year olds? The Berks facility had been seeking to double its capacity to 192 residents.  

All of these families, with very rare exceptions, have family members and sponsors in the U.S. who stand ready and willing to take them in. It costs taxpayers $300 per person, per day, to detain. They are currently detaining a mother with three children: a 9 year old daughter, and 8 year old daughter, and a 3 year old son. The children’s’ father is in the United States. Instead of releasing them, this family has been detained over six month at a cost to taxpayers of $1,200.00 per day.  

Jail-like conditions:  terrible conditions:  untreated medical & mental health issues, and abuse.  For example:  sick children are told to bare-up instead of given basic health care, then when the sickness becomes acute, they are taken to the ER only to be quickly returned to the facility.  In a specific case, a child with Shigella, a highly contagious bacterial disease, with diarrhea, after 3 months of suffering, the deportation office told the mother that she could solve her daughter's medical problems by accepting deportation back to the country she fled.  It wasn’t until the mother had been going to the medical staff for 3 months with concerns about her daughter’s recurrent diarrhea that the staff finally tested the daughter and determined she had Shigellosis. 

Another example:  a guard was charged with seven counts of institutional rape and plead guilty to one count; the outcome was that the women and children were told to dress less provocatively and sleep in pajamas that covered their bodies, but they were not counseled that what he had done was wrong and that they did not have to submit; The guard will likely spend about 5-1/2 months in jail which is less time that the woman he raped spent in detention and less time than the child who witnessed the rape was detained. Also, mothers and children were given no counseling. There was no investigation into whether other staff knew and did nothing. 

When Bernie Sanders was in Reading he called for a shutdown of the Berks detention center stating: "The government should not be in the painful and inhumane business of locking up families who have fled unspeakable violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries. Instead, we should treat these families with the compassion, the dignity, and the respect they deserve.  


Action to Take: 

♦   Write to members of Congress to oppose funding. 

♦   Contact Governor Wolf & PA Dept. of Health Services. 

♦   Write letters to the Editor of Newspapers. 

♦   Mother’s Day Protest at the Berks Detention Center, 1040 Berks Rd, Leesport (time:  3:00).   

♦   Contact the Berks County Commissioners and let them know that residents of Berks County don’t want to be in the business of imprisoning refugee families. They can find other uses of the building and more humane ways to employ county workers 

♦   Attend Berks County Commissioners Board Meeting every Thurs. 10 am, at the Services Center, 633 Court St, Reading. 

♦   Ask questions about the motivation for Not closing the center 


Berks County Commissioners' Office:  Contact:  Berks County Service Center, 633 Court Street, 13th Fl, Reading PA 19601, Phone:  610-478-6136 Fax:  610-478-6293 Email:  


Additional Information:  Carol Anne Donohoe, Attorney-at-Law Facebook page    Greater Reading Immigration Project is also on Facebook  Make The Road PA is also on Facebook 

♣ Financial support for asylum cases: send money to:   

Reading Monthly Meeting  

c/o Ann Bodnyk, treasurer, 108 N. 6th Street, Rdg, PA 19601,  

checks should indicate:  Immigrant Detainees in Berks County,checks payable to:  Reading Monthly Meeting.