By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Yuba County Jail – rife with reports of inhumane conditions for years – is facing new questions after a migrant detainee from Jamaica filed a formal grievance claiming he was “brutally attacked” by an officer at the jail.
The detainee, in his letter, said prisoners in the jail are “treated worse than abandoned animals on the streets,” and that the jail conditions were “not fit” for inmates, citing “mold” and other unhealthy conditions.
“Brutal conditions at Yuba County Jail and other detention centers are not new. They have been documented by nongovernmental actors and government watchdogs and whistleblowers to little vail,” said Rhonda Rios Kravitz of the Sacramento Immigration Coalition/Campaign for Immigrant Detention Reform (SIC/CIDR) and Step Up!
Ricardo Robinson, who penned the grievance, said in an open letter that “I experienced what I always see on the news about racism, hate and excessive brutality of the officers within the jail system in America.”
His letter talked about a September incident where, as he waited to be seen by a nurse, a guard attacked him, violently throwing him around the facility. Robinson described being “tossed…another couple of feet into the glass of another pod, where again he lunged at me with his heavier weight, hurting my rib and elbow, trying to restrain me to be handcuffed.”
Rios Kravitz said she has contacted lawyers and the public about what she read in the letter.
“I am deeply upset about the treatment Mr. Robinson and others in immigrant detention have received at Yuba County Jail. The conditions at the jail are extremely concerning and undermine the protection of rights for people in detention, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.
“It is essential that the grievance be heard and acted upon in a timely manner. It is clear that ICE and the Yuba County Sheriff have failed to adequately assess the conditions faced by immigrants in the jail. The county and the jail must be held accountable for the deplorable conditions and must immediately change the egregious conditions there,” she said.
Rios Kravitz said that she is most concerned now with “retaliation” on Robinson for making public the attack on him, expressing concern about Robinson’s injuries, future safety and follow-up care.
The Yuba County Jail has been a troubled facility since before it housed upwards of 200 ICE detainees.
“This jail has been under a court order for 40 years to improve conditions; however, conditions are still horrific. Ongoing inspections by ICE and the Yuba County Grand Jury (did) not adequately identify the pervasive and troubling conditions at this facility,” said Rios Kravitz.
Detainees have staged several hunger strikes over the past year to protest deplorable and brutal conditions.
“We have an infestation of cockroaches in our beds and food; the cells have no water and we’re treated like criminals,” wrote one migrant detainee in a letter secreted out of the Yuba County facility. Others on strike complained lack of visitation, difficulty in speaking with legal help and not being allowed, as required, more time out of their cells.
Robinson’s handwritten letter reads, in full:
“On September 26, 2019, at around or about 8:30 pm I experienced what I always see on the news about racism, hate and excessive brutality of the officers within the jail system in America.
“My name is Ricardo Robinson. I am an inmate at the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, CA, which is also an ICE facility for immigration detainees.
“I joined a line to see the nurse that night to ask her about my medical request form I sent her earlier that week. Upon joining the line, she – the nurse – indicated to me to walk up to her. While the nurse was gesturing to me, at this time the officer did not see her corresponding with me. An officer at this time screamed at me to back off from the nurse.
“I responded to him by saying “You don’t have to be disrespectful, because it’s the nurse who had called me up.” Within seconds he was already in my face with anger and rage as if he wanted to kill me. At this time, he grabbed my arm and pushed me through the door, which is a sliding door, to enter the dorm, into the wall where they monitor the inmates. Before I could adjust my balance, I was approached by the officer with a more aggressive manner with his elbow, striking me in my neck, which stunned me.
“At this time, I could hear the nurse and every one of the inmates screaming for him to stop. The fury he has inside of him blocked out the sense of hearing and he tossed me another couple of feet into the glass of another pod, where again he lunged at me with his heavier weight, hurting my rib and elbow, trying to restrain me to be handcuffed.
“While trying to handcuff me he was still screaming in my face, allowing his saliva to disperse in my face. The officer got one handcuff on my hand, squeezing it so tight it scarred my skin, until about six (6) more officers came to assist him.
“I was taken to Medical to check on my injuries, and was given Tylenol by the nurse to help with the pain I was feeling after the attack on me. I was then taken to booking and locked in a cell for about an hour then taken back to my cell. I was not disciplined because they could not find me at fault.
“I am currently being delayed to receive an x-ray on my rib. I cannot sleep at nights since the incident. The bathroom is covered in black mold where it’s covered with sheet metal, as well as the vents that are not being cleaned. Very unhealthy for human beings at this point.
“This place is not fit for housing inmates. There is a sewer problem in the dorm and the inmates are being treated worse than abandoned animals on the streets. I am praying that you could be a voice for us living here from the outside world. It would be unfair to say that everyone here acts towards inmates in a hateful manner.
“They do have correctional officers who act like human beings. I am praying that my prayers are answered that whoever is an activist on this matter that has my story is of much help to your agency or agencies.
“May God continue to bless you on your campaign to continue helping immigrants who have helped this country to be where it is today.