Sheriff’s Office bans group from serving ICE detainees, citing violations

Sheriff's Office bans group from serving ICE detainees, citing violations
Photo: Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff

The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff announced Thursday it has revoked clearance for a volunteer group that offers a community visitation program and free hotline to ICE detainees at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, saying about 20 members violated rules of interacting with incarcerated individuals.

In a responding statement, the Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) denied the allegations and called for the reinstatement of its programs that have been offered to inmates since 2011, saying the revocation is in retaliation for CIVIC publishing allegations last year of mistreatment of women detained at the facility.

In December last year, a sheriff’s office announced its internal investigation into CIVIC’s allegations found nearly all complaints “unfounded and unsubstantiated,” including claims of being “locked down” for 23 hours a day and deprived of access to bathrooms.

Further investigation, according to the sheriff’s office, uncovered that CIVIC has “repeatedly violated rules” by providing their personal phone numbers and addresses to incarcerated persons, relaying messages to family and friends of incarcerated persons, receiving phone calls and mail from incarcerated persons, sending contraband to incarcerated persons and depositing money into the accounts of incarcerated persons, according to the sheriff’s office.

CIVIC’s clearance was revoked on March 5 and the group can choose to appeal.

The sheriff’s office said it continues to partner with “numerous community and volunteer groups that provide needed services and resources to incarcerated persons,” and adds that all volunteers take classes covering guidelines and safety rules and sign an agreement that warns that any rule violation could lead to clearance revocation.

CIVIC maintains the revocation is unjust. It says ICE terminated its free hotline, which is used to facilitate visits and legal representation, with no advance warning or subsequent explanation on Feb. 15. Then on Feb. 20, it says the sheriff’s office suspended one of its visitation coordinator’s clearance without a clear explanation.

On Monday, CIVIC said it received an email from Captain Kristi Butterfield of WCDF explaining that a “thorough investigation” into CIVIC’s “emails, phone calls, radio and newspaper interviews” found the “the organization poses a safety and security risk to the WCDF.”

CIVIC said it is holding a community vigil on Sunday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to noon in protest.