Dear CCA Guards...

October 14, 2010

Dear Corrections Corporation of America Guards,

I am writing to you with love and humanity in my heart.  I write to you because, for the past year, you are the people that have influenced my husband’s daily emotional and physical life.  I realize for many of you, you chose this job to uphold security and order in your community.  That is a noble concept.


For a moment, think of the people you most love in the world, now imagine them detained.  If you believed they were there because of an injustice, would you do everything in your power to have them released?   That is what I am doing for my husband.  We as a family decided to created a website, we’ve written letters to many people, initiated postcard and letter writing campaigns, called and emailed Senators and Congress people, and organized a rally.  I have not taken these actions to attack anyone personally or professionally.  My soul mate, best friend, husband and the father of a beautiful 3 year old boy was taken from us.  It has been a year of torment.  Our son has been traumatized.  I am doing everything in my power to bring Pedro home to us.

When I visited this past weekend, I have to say that I was met with polite and courteous guards.  We only waited a half hour to visit.  They told me how long I would wait and they were accurate.  They treated me like an equal, human being.  It was much more positive than our last visit.  On Saturday, Logan and I were able to visit with Pedro for the full two hours requested.  On Sunday, it was only an hour.  I just want to say thank you for not making the visit harder and more tortuous than it already is.  The experience was night and day compared to the last visit in July.  What I really hope, in this moment, is that I am not getting respect and fair treatment because I am white and because I have a voice on the internet.  Just because I am educated, have white skin, and speak English does NOT mean that I or Pedro should be treated any better than anyone else.  The truth is that we should all be treated with respect and courtesy whether we are detained or just visitors.  I hope and pray that everyone that walks through the door of Stewart Detention Center is treated like an equal human being. 

Pedro has told me of positive CCA guards and negative CCA guards.  All of you that interact with Pedro know that he is a positive and outgoing man.  He asks about how you and your family are doing because he is a caring and respectful person.  He really truly cares how you and your family are.  He is a man that has worked hard to change his life for the better and accomplished those changes by being a hard worker, a thoughtful, committed, loving husband and a playful, caring, and present father.  Every time I close my eyes, I think of the times when he would come home after a 12 hour shift of work, exhausted.  I would tell him, Logan and I were going for a walk to the park so he could have a few minutes of peace.  We would start walking and a few minutes later he would come running up behind us with the dogs. “I missed you guys!” He would say and give us a big hug. Logan and I miss him terribly and there has been a hole in our family since he has been gone.  I write, I do interviews, I create rallies, I help develop petitions, and speak on panels because we believe that Pedro is wrongly detained and should not be in Stewart.  I have never written anything to get anyone into trouble.  I write because everyone deserves human rights and respect.  I write because Pedro has witnessed and I have researched that most people that are in Stewart and in other immigration detention centers should not be there.  The majority have already served their time if they committed a crime, are detained because of a minor violation like driving without a license or many have not committed a crime at all.  I ask again, if you felt a friend or family member was wrongly detained, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to try to get them out?  While they were detained wouldn’t you want them to be treated fairly and with respect?

Along with treating people with respect and kindness, there are a few things I would like to address.  When I have visited, I have noticed that every single employee of CCA brings food from the outside.  Is it because you know that the food is inedible?  It appears that it is.  I send Pedro money so that he can eat ramen noodles because he can no longer eat the food.  

When the detainees are allowed to work, do you really think it is fair to pay $1 per day? Most of the detainees have families and were the primary wage earners before they were detained.  Most of their families cannot send them money.

When there are activities for detainees that keep them entertained, it is safer for the CCA guards because they will be less likely to cause trouble if they are not bored.  The games that are provided are broken, old and taped together.  If there were more activities you would see less protest and less have trouble.

Pedro asked for his phone records a few weeks ago.  He was denied.  The rationale was that if he received his phone records, all the detainees would have to receive their phone records.  My question is, has anyone else asked for their phone records?  I doubt it.  Really, printing out phone records is not hard.  The only reason to avoid giving out phone records is if you are hiding something.  Are you covering for the outrageous cost of the phone calls?  Are you hiding the poor quality of phone calls and the consistent disconnections?  We pay $13.58 per collect call for only 20 minutes to talk to each other through Evercom. That is ridiculous.

The most frustrating thing is inconsistency in policy.  For example, Pedro was told that a media or business visit was not the same as a personal visit.  So if there was a personal visit in the week, he could also have a media or business visit in the same week.  When the media person came to visit after we visited, he was turned away.  Consistency in policy would be helpful for staff and visitors.

Because of the nature of your position, you have the power to spread love and compassion and you have the power to spread the message of hate.  During this past year, my husband has told me of officers that have made his life survivable and guards who have made his life hell.  I understand safety and security is necessary but I believe there are ways to keep order and also to be humane.  There is someone very important to me that once said, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”  I am grateful to the guards that follow this ideal.

I pray for your health and well being and hope that you or your family will never have to go through the same ordeal that we have been through in the past year.


Emily Guzman

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Pedro was detained at Stewart Detention Center for 19 months.

NACARA is the type of relief Pedro was granted. Click here to find out what it is.