Activists call for Baker County jail to be shut down over alleged mistreatment of immigrant detainees

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Civil rights activists, attorneys and supporters of detainees gathered Friday on the footsteps of the federal courthouse in Jacksonville, calling for the Baker County Detention Center to be shut down over the alleged mistreatment of immigrants detained at the jail.

Andrea Jacoski, with Americans for Immigrant Justice, represents people detained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Baker County Detention Center, Krome Processing Center and Glades County Detention Center. According to Jacoski, the detainees are not being given reasonable access to an attorney or reasonable conditions. In addition, Jacoski said, women are being treated in disturbing ways.

“A 60-year-old woman was denied her privacy while using the restroom while being detained by the Baker County sheriff,” Jacoski said. “Since then, many women have bravely stepped forward and reported officers taking photos of them in their undergarments, watching them shower and change clothes.”

News4JAX reached out to Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden. When he talked with the I-TEAM last year, he spoke out against allegations of mistreatment of detainees.

“What I’m not going to do is allow people to come in here and lie about our facility, the job that our people do here — because we take pride in our job,” Baker County Rhoden said at the time. “I’m not going to stand by and remain silent and not vigorously defend what we do here at the Sheriff’s Office because our people do a great job here on a day-to-day basis, and I’m going to stand behind that what we do here is right.”

PREVIOUS STORIES: Civil rights groups file complaint alleging ‘inhumane conditions’ at federal wing of Baker County jail | I-TEAM obtains inspection report for Baker detention facility where detainees allege ‘inhumane conditions’ | I-TEAM given exclusive access by Baker County sheriff to federal wing of jail where immigrant detainees allege ‘inhumane conditions’ | ACLU of Florida, other groups want end to housing of ICE detainees in Baker County jail

Tammy Owen spoke out Friday against the Baker County jail after her husband was detained by ICE.

‘He was a British citizen. He was lawfully in the United States, married to me, and we had an infant daughter, 3 months old,” Owen said. “He was held in Baker County for 11 days, and on the 11th day, he was found deceased.

Tammy Owen and her husband (Tammy Owen)

Her husband died by suicide in the facility. Owen said she believes it was due to inhumane conditions in the jail.

In 2019, there was an unannounced inspection of the Baker County jail, and it found that solitary confinement there was inhumane.

VIEW: Report on unannounced inspections of ICE facilities in 2019

ICE closed the Glades County Detention Center in 2022 for similar complaints.

The widow, attorneys and other activists told News4JAX that the Baker County jail has dozens of complaints of alleged inhumane treatment of detainees and that they hope it is shut down like the Glades County Detention Center.

Tammy Owen and her husband (Tammy Owen)

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