A glimpse inside immigration detention centers

 

IMG-20180803-WA0002

Translate:  If you don’t turn in your daughter, you are going to die.

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

A father and a daughter fled their country in fear and ended up in U.S. detention. A group of Idahoans saw what was happening and wanted to help.

“The dehumanizing practices make me ill. It’s absolute chaos,” said Molly Kafka an Idaho lawyer who recently interviewed several asylum seekers in El Paso. “The whole system is in utter chaos.”

molly

Photo by Max Shue

Kafka saw the chaos first hand. She was one of five Idahoans who traveled to Texas. In Idaho, she heard that children were being separated from their parents and felt compelled to go to the border to bear witness and do what she could to help. The group of Idahoans landed in Texas, traveled across the desert and prepared for a long week in El Paso.

Hundreds of Guatemalan asylum seekers have headed to the same area, walking across a small pedestrian right of way enclosed by bars and chain link fence spanning a canal and a road they enter the United States from Juarez, Mexico. They guide their children to government agents.

“They walk up to officers and say I do not have authorization,” said Kafka. “I’m not allowed in this country. I do not have a visa or a passport to get in, but I’m afraid to return home.”  

Kafka, along with her four other colleagues, interviewed mothers and fathers separated from their children while in U.S. custody the same week Trump signed an executive order to reunite families. The asylum seekers would “be taken into different rooms, and that would be the end of it. They would be told, well, we can’t keep the two of you together. Your kid is underage, and you’re an adult. We can’t have you in the same facilities.” Kafka said.

38281185_10216637769366805_6333492674582020096_n

Photo by Max Shue

Maria Andrade, a prominent Idaho immigration attorney, was the principal organizer of the group. With her help, the team set up base at Annunciation House. They worked in a recently painted room with bare walls, folding tables, and limited chairs. On one of the walls, they hung a sheet of paper with a happy face on it. The poster was titled “Reunited Families” and had space for names. The poster had no names and remained bare and empty. “It was blank, and at some point during the week, I was like we got to get rid of this paper,” Andrade said.IMG-20180803-WA0003

Henrry Ramirez Bayes, an asylum seeker from Guatemala, had already made the roughly 2,000 mile trip from Guatemala to a detention center in Texas. He fled his home with his daughter, leaving his other family members behind.IMG-20180702-WA0014

Gangs in his home country threatened, assaulted and stabbed Bayes trying to extract his daughter from Bayes’ family.  The U.S. government had separated the two of them. “We were in an office. They took our fingerprints. I was with my child, then they took us in a room that was super cold, and I was there with my daughter,” said Bayes. “They told me don’t worry, you will be separated only for five days. I had handcuffs on, so I couldn’t even give my daughter a hug. My daughter is still traumatized.”

Separated from his daughter, Bayes found himself in what is commonly called the “icebox,” both because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the temperature, for twenty days. “I have nowhere to sleep. I was sleeping on the floor, I had those blankets, the silver ones. It was super cold,” said Bayes. “They don’t let you sleep, they count you every two hours, they open the doors and then slam them, everybody’s talking so there’s basically no sleep. It’s just torture, like not wanting to go on anymore.”

Bayes moved to the detention center in Otero, New Mexico, about 30 minutes from El Paso before the Idahoans arrived. “I thought it was gonna be a detention center, but it was a real jail. They had people that have committed crimes that had killed other people, so it was kind of frightening and then I realized one month had gone by,” said Bayes. “The second month we had a TV, so I knew what’s going on in the news so that’s when I realized that we were not going to be together for a while and I didn’t think we would be reunited.”

“They’re in state-issued jumpsuits, they have to line up and stand like they’re in prison. It reminded me of visiting clients in jails,” said Kafka.

Bayes had not broken any laws on his journey.

To apply for asylum, you must be physically present in the U.S. You have to walk across the bridge from Juárez, or a border crossing like it, and find a border patrol officer to start the process. Bayes wanted to protect his daughter and he put his faith in the U.S.government so she would be safe.

Otero in New Mexico2

Photo by Max Shue

On July 22nd Bayes was eating in the dining area. “There were other detainees there also. During the meal, an officer announced that they were going to reunify us with our children in El Paso. I was very excited and happy. It was clear to me from their faces and statements that the other men were happy too. Some of them did not even finish eating,” said Bayes.

Bayes was excited to reunite with his daughter “I took off my uniform and changed into my own clothes,” Bayes said. “I saw that about eight of the detainees who were mostly indigenous Guatemalans were given some papers that others were not. I believe many of them cannot read or write and do not speak Spanish based on my interactions with them. The group got off the bus before the rest of us.”

Kafka and Andrade traveled to detention centers daily. “They all look like warehouses where semis would pull up and load up their beer trucks or their boxes of goods,” said Kafka. “But they’re surrounded by barbed wire fences, and the gates are locked.”

Upon entry they traveled “through a metal detector” Andrade said. She would walk down a hall to see detainees. On the wall, a giant screen with bright colors allowed people to deposit money into detainee accounts. The detainees would use that money to make phone calls, contact family members, and seek outside help on their cases. “It was so gross,” said Andrade. “It had these peppy colors and fonts.” The program was called “Getting Out.” Family and friends of detainees in the facility would walk by it as they went to the visitation room. The logo looked like the Bank of America, and it served as a stark reminder to many visitors that the likelihood any of these people would be “getting out” was slim. Andrade remembered, “I wanted to throw a rock at that.”

border

Photo by Max Shue

Bayes made the trip to El Paso. “There were 37 people on the bus. We entered a parking lot with buildings, including a detention center”, Bayes said. “We were surprised that our kids were not waiting for us. I thought that after changing into our own clothes, that we were going to be released from custody. Instead, we were put into the icebox.”

Bayes had been in the icebox before, shortly after being separated from his daughter weeks before. He started the journey to U.S. asylum because Guatemalan gangs wanted his daughter. “He came because people are trying to buy his daughter. They got death threats because people wanted his daughter,” Andrade explained. “Graffiti on a wall next to his family home said ‘give us your daughter or you will die.’”

“I came to this country asking for asylum because my daughter was in danger,” said Bayes. “I left my other son, and I just brought my daughter that was in danger. [It’s] because of my daughter I’m here.”

The group from Idaho would meet parents separated from their children in small rooms separated by plexiglass. The rooms were white with accents of gray. They had fluorescent lights that created a constant hum. Volunteers would get headaches from the hum. The rooms were filled with flat, stagnant air that smelled like sweat, “death threats and anxiety,” Andrade said. Developing a rapport in the small rooms was difficult. “We were asking people to trust us after our government has so violently torn them apart from their children and placed them here,” said Kafka. The interpreter Max Shue would “have his ear up to the speaker and the other person had to be at the speaker as well,” Kafka added.  “It was a really difficult place to communicate.”

38241984_10216637773526909_6741984634692698112_n

Photo by Max Shue

Bayes spent the next day in the detention center. Eventually, officers started to remove detainees one by one. The group thought the moment had finally come. They would finally see their children. “Everyone was so happy, and there was loud clapping in celebration when the first person was called,” Bayes said. After several people had been called out of the room by officers, a group of detainees peered out the window to the yard outside the building. The busses were parked outside. The asylum seekers they thought had just been reunited with their children were standing outside. “I saw him outside of the building, walking to the bus in handcuffs,” Bayes said. “He was not with his child. He had a chain around his waist, and his wrists were cuffed together.”

Many of the men broke. The shock of being moments away from their child only to be led back to detention again was too much. “People got depressed. Others started crying. Some had a meltdown and they had to go to a doctor, so it is really bad,” said Bayes. “People were crying. It was horrific.” Andrade said men recounting the event were “trying to be strong, on the brink of tears or they would just break down crying. One man, I thought he was mentally decomposing.”

Another man told Andrade “I don’t want him (his child) to think I left him. I didn’t want this. I loved him. I’m ready to go, but I can’t leave without talking to him. I’m not going to leave him.”

The asylum seekers miss their children. They thought they were bringing them to a better place, but now they feel duped. “They have this incredible sense of guilt,” Andrade added. “They feel like they were responsible for this.”

Kafka said gangs had recruited many of the people she interviewed. If families rejected the groups, those families were at risk. Some would report the gangs to the police, but “because the police are working for the gangs, people would end up being shot,” Kafka said. “It is consistent harassment and terrorizing tradition of not wanting to participate in criminal activity and then having to flee because the government is not protecting you. Police aren’t protecting you. You don’t say no to the cartels without deadly consequences.”

Bayes was sent back to Otero the next day. “On the return bus, some people asked the bus driver why we were being sent back without our kids, but they told us that they did not know,” said Bayes. “No ICE officer or other immigration official told us why we were being returned.”

Some parents and kids reunited. Adults and children went into a large room outside the detention center.  “It was completely disorganized. It was so clear that they had no idea what they were doing,” Andrade heard from parents in the room. “Kids crying, looking for their parents. [Some] can’t find their parents, walking through this path of adults. Parents looking for their kids thinking they’re seeing their kids. It’s so clear they couldn’t care [less] about the trauma.”

The parents that found their children boarded a different bus. The bus left the center with parents finally talking to their children after long separations. Shortly after leaving the facility, the bus stopped. Government officials boarded the bus with documents in hand. The parents were asked to sign the papers, according to multiple accounts and an ACLU lawsuit. On the form, “I’m going to be deported with my child was pre-checked,” according to Andrade.

Many of the parents and children on the bus didn’t want to sign, but they didn’t want to leave their kids. Parents cried not wanting to lose their sons and daughters again. “They’re being told you have to sign here,” Andrade said. “One witness tells us about a parent and a son fighting because the son says ‘I think I have a claim. Someone told me I had a good case.’ The fathers like ‘no, you have to come with me.’”

The older kids were able to explain their position to their parents. They had a good chance at being granted asylum. They didn’t want to self-deport, but they also didn’t want to leave their mom or dad again.  Only eight people didn’t sign the self-deportation order.

An ACLU lawsuit about the incident describes “coercive and misleading” actions by the U.S. government.

“They were presented with three different forms, and they were asked to sign them,” Kafka said. “The ICE officer picked up the stack of papers and picked up the right corner and said ‘sign here, sign here,’ without showing them.” The forms were all in English and no translation was offered. If asylum seekers refused to sign, they would be “yelled at and ridiculed and mistreated,” Kafka said.

Otero in New Mexico

Photo by Max Shue

Bayes returned to the detention center without his daughter. “This experience was very traumatic for me. I was so excited to see my daughter and be with her again after not seeing her for almost two months now,” said Bayes. “My daughter is 15 years old. She turned 15 just before we arrived.”

Another member of the Idaho team was Naomi Johnson. “My purpose in going, as a clinical social worker, was to assist in instances of vicarious trauma,” said Johnson. “I ended up spending most of my time attempting to locate children after they had been removed from their parent(s).”

Johnson tried to find Bayes’ daughter. She was able to make contact with the person responsible for the daughter. The representative told Johnson that the daughter was released. “A child was supposed to be tracked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, we started seeing that the legal representative had signed a release of the child [and] had put the child on a bus and didn’t know where the child was,” said Kafka.

“When I talked to them they said to their knowledge the child had been reunited eight days prior to our conversation,” Johnson said. “I explained that they were not reunited [and] that the father had no idea where his child was.”

“We’d be like the (expletive) they have,” said Kafka. “They’re in the detention facility! Where’s the child? What’s going on? Can you imagine being in this country, being in a foreign country, and losing your child? Intentionally, absolutely intentionally, they have a database.”

The U.S. government lost Bayes’ daughter.

“I had to tell him that according to the government, his daughter and he had been released. I mean to see his face. He knows what could happen. They don’t (expletive) know where she is. Where’s his daughter? He came because people are trying to buy his daughter,” Andrade said. “They got death threats because people wanted his daughter.”

Andrade and Kafka eventually had to return to Idaho. They turned over Bayes’ case to other lawyers and Johnson turned the search for his daughter over to other caseworkers.

Back at the detention center, Bayes started to receive this new assistance. Then one morning, he got a phone call. His lawyer said you’re going to be released, but Bayes didn’t believe it “because of the things that have been happening.”

The volunteers didn’t stop trying to track down his daughter and get Bayes out of detention.

Eventually an immigration officer told Bayes he was going to be released, but first, he had to sign some documents. Bayes said “I was doubting if I should sign, but I just wanted to leave that place, so I signed. I don’t know if that’s going to help me in my case or hurt me, but I just wanted to be released, so finally I saw my daughter after three months, and that was the best thing that happened to me.”

Bayes and his daughter are now in the United States, outside the walls of a detention facility. They are currently waiting for their asylum hearing. Their long journey away from violence is temporarily over, but the trauma they experienced still lingers.

His daughter was not the same. The experience had affected her mentally and physically. “She doesn’t trust me anymore, she thinks I’m going to leave her again,” said Bayes.  “When I go out to the store, I tell her I’ll be back, and she looks at me like ‘I don’t trust you, you’re going to leave me again.’ It breaks me because of what she went through, so after I have money I’m going to send her to a psychiatrist because she’s not right.”

The experience has had a physical toll on Bayes’ daughter. He remembers her having her period before they left for the United States but “after we got out of the detention she hasn’t had her period for two months,” said Bayes “I’m very afraid that they touched her or raped her.”

Stress can cause irregular or missed periods. The condition is called secondary amenorrhea.

Now that they are back together, Bayes says his only priority is his daughter. He is going to do whatever it takes to give her a better life because “my life doesn’t matter, it’s her life,” said Bayes.

In 2017, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly proposed separating children from their parents to deter people from traveling to the border. Had Bayes known what was in store for him, the deterrence may have worked. “I would not do it again if I knew how difficult it was going to be, being separated from my daughter. I would not have done it,” said Bayes. “I would have gone to another country and asked for asylum in another country because it was really harsh.”

 

Standard

In Idaho, education not yet the key to wage equality

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Women in Idaho make significantly less than men, and education level may even exacerbate the inequity.

The Idaho earnings gap in 2017 averaged out to be $12,619, with women earning 60 percent of what men earned according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The gap closed a bit when we tabulated only men and women who worked full-time and year-round employment, but those women still made about 74 percent of their male counterparts.

“There are multiple sources of gender pay gaps, making it challenging to isolate one cause,” said Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler, an associate professor of political science at Boise State University,

To cut down on some of these possible sources for the pay gap, Idaho Reports created its own data set. We compared census data for men and woman who had bachelors degrees. When we compared only college-educated men and women, the wage gap increased. In 2016, women with a bachelor degree in Idaho earn about 62 percent of their male counterparts statewide.

One explanation for the wage disparity: “More women graduate with degrees in education and work in public education, which pays less than careers in engineering,” Kettler said. “In general, women tend to be concentrated among lower-paying careers.”

The silver bullet solution often given by policymakers has been education, but despite women in Idaho embracing higher education in numbers higher than male counterparts, they do not see the promised returns. A 2018 report by the University of Georgetown notes, “As women outperform men in college, some of the patriarchy of the job market is being wiped away. But the gender wage disparity is still far from being resolved. In the workplace, women are forced to play by a different set of rules than men.”

The different set of rules according to the Georgetown study are reinforced by gender stereotypes. “More limited advancement, time spent on work, unconscious or conscious stereotypes/discrimination, inflexible workplace structures, and higher attrition rates,” all factor into the inequity according to Dr. Kettler. “Wages also tend to decline once more women enter a field, and wages rise when men enter fields more dominated previously by women.”

The wage discrepancies also vary significantly across Idaho. In Boise County, women with a bachelor’s degree make almost $54,000 less than the men in the county. That’s consistent with the rest of the nation, where rural counties have higher wage gaps. Kettler and the Georgetown study have speculated that lack of household and neighborhood responsibilities for men make it easier for them to commute to higher paying jobs outside of their communities. Women don’t have the geographical freedom, “since women still tend to spend more time on caregiving,” said Kettler. Women’s responsibilities often confine them to employment options within their direct community.

Only one county in Idaho has a wage gap that favors women. In Gooding County, women make $42,083, compared to $41,519 for men. Gooding County was the only place in Idaho with census data showing women earning as much or more than men. Boundary County the was the next closest, with women making $785 on average less than men.

 

It should also be noted that minority women tend to have an even larger pay gap than their white counterparts. Idaho Reports plans to explore more of these wage inequities in the future.

Standard

Death & Secrecy

 

Chamber Looking South

Courtesy Idaho Department of Correction

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Seven years ago, the state of Idaho killed two men in a six month period.

Only a few people at the Idaho Department of Correction know exactly how these men died.

In 2017, University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover submitted a public records request to find out what happened in the “green room,” the small cream colored execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.

The public doesn’t really have enough information to make an informed decision about at least the methods by which we’re putting people to death,” Cover told Idaho Reports.

But the Department of Correction has refused to comply with an April 5th order from District Judge Lynn Norton to hand over documents related to the executions, and Cover’s lawyers passed up an opportunity to challenge that refusal.

In the most recent hearing, Norton asked Cover’s attornies why they had not asked the state to be held in contempt.

 

On September 17th, Norton ordered a trial. In court, Norton mused it was the only procedural remedy if contempt hearings were not initiated.

The question in the upcoming trial: Should Idahoans know how people are executed with their taxpayer dollars?

“These are obvious matters of extreme societal significance, perhaps the apex of societal significance,” Ritchie Eppink, Legal Director for the Idaho ACLU told Idaho Reports.

IDOC offers a little transparency. Three reporters witnessed the executions. They saw pentobarbital injected into the two men, but they did not see how the drugs were procured and stored, or how the fatal cocktail was prepared. “Idaho officials are trying to keep this information from the public.” Cover said.

The Department of Correction claims the secrecy is about the safety and privacy of the people involved in the execution, from the doctors who administer the drugs to the companies that manufacture them. “The idea that we as a people would collectively kill someone,” Eppink said, “Those issues of privacy just simply do not arise here.”

There was a national crisis in 2010 to 2011 when drugs used in executions became scarce, Cover said. “It created a pattern of states turning to secrecy where there hadn’t been a strong emphasis on secrecy before, because they didn’t have legitimate sources for the drugs or they were experimenting with new protocols that were not thought out and well established in terms of safety.”

The Rhoades and Leavitt executions in 2011 and 2012 were right in that wake that national crisis.

“We know that states are hiding things that are scandalous and are criminal,” Eppink Said. “These are the kinds of things that make ordinary people drop their jaws.” Eppink is referencing experimental execution drugs and procedures in states like Tennessee, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

Revealing the manufacturer of the drugs could put people at risk, argues the state. “The source has significant concerns that the source would be subjected to harassment and harm to the source’s business,” Jeff Zmuda, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Correction, said in a sworn deposition.

This conflict creates a catch 22 for Idaho. “Disclosing the identity of the source of a lethal injection,” said Deputy Attorney General Jessica Kuehn, “would jeopardize the department’s ability to carry out an execution,”

According to Eppink, this creates a system where there is “no judicial oversight effectively, no legislative oversight, no public oversight of where our lethal injection drugs are coming from, whether they are safe, whether they are even appropriate for lethal injection in the first place. There is no way for the public to verify whether these drugs are even made by licensed suppliers. There is no way for the public to verify whether or not there are political or financial ties between the Department of Correction officials that are purchasing these drugs and the people that are supplying these drugs.”

Idaho Code gives the Department of Correction the ability to withhold documents when confidentiality, public safety, and security clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The department of correction believes “disclosing such information would subject such chemical sources to harassment and pressure,” Kuehn said.

Idaho’s public records law states a public agency shall not prevent the examination or copying of a public record by contracting with a non-governmental body to perform any of its duties or functions. “It is exactly what is happening here,” Eppink said.

“The number of documents that actually discuss the drugs at all are very very small,” Kuehn said.  Only three pages that are known of that actually discussed the source at all and who the source is.”

The almost year-long records request, however, has created an interesting document trail. First, the Department of Corrections provided five documents in a web link after the September 24, 2017, request.  

After Cover petitioned the court, the Department of Corrections found hundreds of more pages of responsive documents.

Here are links to the bulk of the documents disclosed:

Disk 1

Disk 2

In the most recent court hearing, frustrations about the Department of Corrections disclosure were openly expressed by the judge.

“I have to tell you now I have some concerns,” Norton told the court. “Now you’re telling me 900 pages later that there were at least 900 pages of things that the state had not produced at that point. So it does give me pause as to whether the evidence at the hearing was actually accurate, quite frankly.”

Norton ordered disclosure of unredacted documents, including the source of the lethal injection drugs.

Despite the order, the Department of Correction did not disclose the source of the drugs, but continued to find documents. “They failed to do a diligent search,” Norton said in the most recent court appearance. “After the court’s order then (they) did a diligent search.”

The Department of Correction claimed that many of the newly found documents were not purposely withheld, but were missing in odd places. “A box containing execution-related documents was found in the office of an employee who has since promoted and no longer works at Central Office,” Zmuda said.

“It’s very clear that that’s not a well-thought-out file plan,” Norton told the court.

Idaho’s public records law has a time frame. The disclosure of records is supposed to be timely within three working days or for more time-intensive searches “no later than ten working days following the person’s request. Not making a prompt search “would allow a public agency, through a motion to reconsider, allow them to wait until after contested proceedings, after a final writ of mandate before diligently searching,” Eppink said.

“For an ordinary person trying to get access to the same information,” Cover said, “it would be really difficult to be able to sustain this kind of litigation.”

Norton modified the disclosure writ on Monday, allowing IDOC “to redact portions of record(s) that would identify the source of execution drugs for the Rhoades and Leavitt executions since this issue is reserved for a trial on the merits.”

The trial will get at the heart of the disagreement: Do Idaho citizens have a right to know how they are putting people to death, or, as the Department of Correction says, is the secrecy needed for capital punishment to exist?

“Even if the death penalty is constitutional, there may be an unconstitutional method for putting them to death,” said Cover. “If there is an unreasonable risk of pain and suffering to a human who’s being put to death then we have a constitutional problem. The death penalty is not the same thing as torture.”

The department and the state, however, are steadfast moving forward and “will not disclose, under any circumstance, the identity of certain individuals involved in executions, as well as any other information wherein the disclosure of that information could jeopardize the department’s ability to carry out an execution,” Kuehn said.

Well, obviously, records that show that the department has been killing people illegally or is planning to kill people illegally, or there are reasons to expect that an execution has been or will be botched,” Eppink said. “That is going to jeopardize an execution.”

Standard

Come for the sentence, stay for the prices

By Seth Ogilvie

This summer, Idaho inmates picked up their prison-issued tablets and, as if they were sitting on a couch in their living room surfing Amazon, placed items in their shopping carts. Shopping on tablets is something non-incarcerated people regularly do. The similarity in the shopping in prison and outside, however, is also a reminder that beneath the surface of those tablets, the process is vastly different.

Idaho prisoners are allowed to purchase JP5 tablets from the JPAY company. They look like iPads, and they can be used to send email, download songs, games and — as the JPAY company likes to highlight in their state contracts — they can be used for education.

JPAY tablet
That’s about where the similarities end. These aren’t iPads, and the JPAY commissary isn’t the Amazon emporium. Prisoners can’t get on iTunes or watch videos on Youtube. Sending an email costs 47 cents, and music costs as much as $3.50 in virtual money. These are services people outside prison cells take for granted.

These prices also have to be put into perspective. Prisoners in Idaho’s correctional institutions receive virtual money that “runs from 10 cents an hour for low-skill jobs to 30 cents an hour for high-skill jobs,” according to the Idaho Department of Corrections website. That could mean after a 40 hour work week, a low skilled prison worker could send nine emails or download one song.

Friends and family are also allowed to fill JPAY accounts with virtual money, but they get no deal on the services. That means they, too, are stuck paying the high price tag.

In Idaho prisons, there is no competition for prices. JPAY has the monopoly, and they want to keep it that way. Documents obtained by the Prison Policy Initiative show a business strategy focused on cutting down competition and controlling prices.

In 2015, Securus, a prison-focused technology company, acquired JPAY. The merger allowed them to provide almost all technology needs for an individual prison or state, and since they are the sole provider of services, they can set the price at virtually any level as long as the corrections department they are contracting with will allow it.

The only people likely to complain about the high prices would be the prisoners and their families, groups that seldom get much sympathy from legislators and the public. The high rates can also be perceived as a punitive measure by citizens outside of prison — “You did the crime, now time to pay the price.”

This summer, prisoners at Idaho correctional facilities found a workaround. Some people called it a hack, some called it a glitch, but to 363 Idaho inmates, it was a heck of a deal.

Inmates discovered that if items were added to their shopping carts either through tablets or kiosks, then those items were deleted, their accounts were credited with the cost.

“JPAY was not hacked. Kiosks were not breached. Tablets were not breached.” Julie McKay told the Idaho Board of Corrections in early August.

Inmates, according to the DOC, credited their accounts with $224,772 in virtual money, with about 50 people exceeding $1,000 and one person getting close $10,000.

“On the 23rd of July, the system was patched,” McKay told the DOC board earlier this month.

The response from social media highlighted several aspects of the system. The glitch brought frustrations about high prices, corporate oversight and prison labor to twitter.

JPAY_tweets3

Tweets supporting the prisoners came rolling in. The narrative on social media took on a Robin Hood-type quality. JPAY has contracts with 20 states. They are the exclusive provider and set the prices in many places outside of Idaho.

JPAY mapFor many on Twitter, the prisoners were finally getting one over on a company that has got one over on the prisoners for years.

IDOC and JPAY saw it differently. They saw the actions as theft, even if the theft was virtual and those who participated received disciplinary reports and were charged by JPAY for items purchased.

Those that were rooting for the prisoners, however, can take a little solace in the fact that they were able to keep the content they purchased, according to Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray.

Let’s hope at least one inmate downloaded Merle Haggard’s “I Made the Prison Band” it would serve as a reminder that there are other ways to hear music in prison. The digitally remastered song cost less than half the JPAY rate at $1.29 on Amazon.

Standard

Come as you are, as I want you to be

 

PJ (1 of 1)By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Bob Sojka has had a complicated month. Lately, he and the Democratic Party have had two particularly interesting moments.

The incidents both involved influential female leaders.

Sojka is the State Committeeman for the Twin Falls Democratic Party. At a Sunday picnic sponsored by the party, gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan made an appearance.

According to the Times-News, Sojka told the crowd “this is the prom,” referring to the event, “and the prom queen is here,” referring to Jordan.

At the Idaho Democratic Convention Sojka walked to a microphone and told several women and people of color “we deserve an apology.”

Sojka’s demand came after he argued with one of the organizers of Boise’s immigration rally. Thousands of people marched to the steps of the Idaho Statehouse to demand changes to the current immigration policy in the wake of child detention and family separation.

The majority of people at the convention supported the protest but not necessarily their goals. The rally happened just hours before Sojka’s demand.

The Sojka “prom queen” statement could quickly be written off as an innocent comment of an older white man not realizing how it might come across, but that’s the point. Sojka didn’t have to merge his theoretical embrace of diversity with its reality. He didn’t have to unite his support of the protests with what he would be supporting.

A prom queen is traditionally elected based on two criteria, popularity or beauty. Their duties consist of getting their photos taken and serving as an emblem for a high school. They are not vested with or expected to perform any significant responsibilities, nor are they elected for their ability or their character.

The prom queen and king also reinforce strict gender roles. The crown confers that the recipient is either male or female other options are not available.

We reached out to Bob Sojka multiple times over the last month. He has not returned any messages.

Twitter, however, had no problem commenting.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 12.43.21 PMScreen Shot 2018-07-21 at 12.41.57 PM

“I think that it’s a pretty superficial term for a woman that has held office,” Caitlin Copple Masingill, a precinct captain for the Idaho Democrats told Idaho Reports. “This was something to call out.”

Copple was concerned about the repercussions of a statement like this. “It takes a woman being asked an average 12 times before they’ll agree to run,” Copple said. “I think this will make them more hesitant because, with comments like these, it’s that much harder to be taken seriously.”

Sojka may not have realized how the comments would come across, but he had to have had an intention of saying it. We have found no instances of Sojka referring to A.J. Balukoff, Keith Allred or Jerry Brady as the prom king.

He could have said the next Governor of the State of Idaho (a fairly common practice). He could have said the parties leader, he could have even said the new Idaho matriarch if Sojka was determined to inject gender, but he didn’t.

That brings us back to the idea of the emblem. For a straight white man in Idaho, it’s easy to like the idea of diversity. It is easy because, for many Idahoans, it’s theoretical. It’s not uncommon for people in Boise, a supposed hotbed of liberalism, to go an entire day without knowingly talking to a person of color or a person from the LGBTQ community.

Without familiarity, it’s easy to transpose one’s ideas, values, and desires onto the blank canvass of that other individual. A Native American woman can be perceived as the same as that straight white man as long as they stay theoretical, as long as all of their hopes, dreams, values, and abilities remain unknown.

Conversely, people can be vilified without familiarity. We’ve seen it throughout history in racist or xenophobic ideology.

At the Idaho Democratic Convention Jennifer Martinez introduced an amendment to the Democratic body that would support the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The debate was heated. The majority of the people in the room wanted to support the protests going on that same day. They didn’t want children separated from their parents. They knew the compassionate, and moral thing to do was to stand up for these families, and they wanted to be on the side of the protestors, but the demonstrators had aims.

They did not support what Martinez, one of the event organizers, said was the aim of the protests.

Their aims were the abolition of ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These aims were not popular with the majority of the people in the room. The protest like the prom queen would be more appealing for some without the ideological baggage.

An argument broke out at the convention. One side wanted to support the protestors, but not the aims to abolish ICE and CBP.  Sojka joined that side. The others claimed you couldn’t support a protest without supporting the goals of the rally.

After several minutes of debate, Martinez’s amendment died.

Jessica Chilcott took the microphone after the vote. “We had a chance to be an ally to communities of color, and we rejected it. If we’re going to, as a room full of white people claim that we’re allies for people of color, we should try to act like it.”

Chilcott put a spotlight on the issue Democrats in Idaho are facing. Being theoretically in favor of diversity is different from accepting diversity for what it is.

The Idaho Democratic party has always marketed itself as tolerant, accepting and as a big tent. The Democratic party has always promoted diversity, but this year diversity has had a voice, diversity had ideas, and diversity had goals.

Woman and minorities have taken up the highest positions in the party.

At the Democratic convention, delegates learned that being in favor of the idea of protests is different from being in support of their goals.

This year diversity walked into the convention and started yelling inside its walls. The diversity could no longer be theoretical, and for some, that was not what they wanted to hear.

Sojka pounced on this moment. He demanded an apology from Chilcott. He claimed Chilcott and the others arguing with him did not understand what was in his heart. “We’ve been doing things that she has absolutely no freaking knowledge of,” said Sojka.

Chilcott responded, “we don’t get to decide what they want.”

I reached out to Sojka shortly after his comments to find out what they had “absolutely no freaking knowledge of.” He has not returned my request for comment.

Idaho Reports has also reached out to the Jordan campaign who also has not returned my request for comment.

Chilcott had little doubt what the performance meant. “There have been ongoing concerns voiced by communities of color, both locally and nationally, about how the Democratic Party expects their support without doing its best to address the issues faced by those communities,” Chilcott wrote Idaho Reports. “What I felt was happening was more performative allyship. If we will not boldly work to dismantle an abusive, racist system, what good are we as allies?”

Another delegate at the convention put it much more bluntly, looking across the floor to where Sojka had just demanded an apology. “We all need to check our privileges,” she said. “Especially the white men.”

 

Correction: A previous version of this story identified Bob Sojka as the head of the Twin Falls Democrats rather than the State Committeeman.

 

Standard

With friends like these

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Last week, Republican lieutenant governor candidate Janice McGeachin made a post on Facebook. The post linked to an Idaho Politics Weekly story, and echoed a general Republican talking point about why Trump is popular: “He is keeping the promises he made to the voters…”

A few days later, the conversation went off the rails. A comment about white nationalism, a Bundy sympathizer, outrage from centrists and a candidate trying to keep everyone happy pulled the conversation into an ideological circus tent.

Thank you Bob

Bob Jackson posted “I’m proud to be white again!” to which McGeachin responded, “Thank you Bob!”

Jackson then responded back to Rep. McGeachin saying “Thank you Janice McGeachin, with your leadership we’ll take back this state!”

The first objection came from Robbie DeLeon: “Janice McGeachin Why should anyone who isn’t white vote for you after seeing these comments? If you want to represent our state you need to represent everyone, not just white conservatives.”

McGeachin did not respond or thank DeLeon, but Jackson did saying “She clearly doesn’t need your vote OR ANY OF YOUR LIBERSL BUDDIES. THIS IS IDAHO! GO RED WAVE! #MAGA or #GTFO.

The thread played out like this for almost 24 hours. Idaho Reports then contacted McGeachin, asking “Does Janice McGeachin support the sentiment ‘I’m proud to be white again?’”

“I hope the voters in Idaho know that I believe that our country should celebrate diversity,” McGeachin told Idaho Reports in an email. “My ‘thank you’ was in response to his support of Trump and my campaigns.”

McGeachin then posted a video from Eric Parker. Parker is best known for his involvement in the Bundy ranch standoff. The video compares the 1st and 2nd Amendments, and encourages people to be as disciplined with their words as they are with their firearms, stating “Stop shooting the people around you and start shooting the target.”

The video can still be found on Parker’s Facebook page.

Later Monday afternoon McGeachin deleted all the posts and the video and replaced it with this statement:

Statement McGeachin

Idaho Reports reached out to Jackson and received this statement shortly after the thread was deleted. We’ve copied and pasted it without editing. Warning: There is profanity.

“I’m so mad I’m shakin. She posts about why Trump is getting support and I thank her, she thanks me, then all hell brakes lose. I ask sone of my millitia buddies to push back on the hate I was getting then next thing u know bitch tells me to watch myself and I’m getting beat up by Eric Parker himself for saying things he says all the time. Check FB him and me are/were friends. Now his goons are telling me I’m not wrong, just whatch where I post. Anyway it looks like its over because the bitch deleted my post and put me in FB jail so I can’t post comments to her stuff. McGeachin has no integrity. Can’t support the second while wiping your feet on the first or something like that.”

Idaho Reports cannot verify several of the claims Jackson makes in this statement. We reached out to McGeachin about Jackson’s comments and she declined to comment.

Below is the entire thread for context:

 

 

Standard

A Total Election Miscommunication

This week the state’s highest elections office wrote letters to the most powerful political players alleging they had broken the law. The recipients may face fines for supposed campaign finance violations, but those letters could be going to innocent groups and people.

It’s 13 days after a critical campaign finance deadline. That number will be unlucky for 12 PACs and three people who face allegations by the state that they didn’t properly disclose the money they spent.

It’s not clear, however, whose at fault.

Several high-profile PACs, as late as June 27, appeared to be in violation of Idaho campaign finance laws, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Idaho Realtors PAC who raised $651,518 and spent $259,611 in this year’s primary is the highest profile group that has been accused of violating state law by the elections office.

The Idaho Realtors PAC was one of the biggest spenders in the primary election. Cutting large checks for independent expenditures in favor of Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who was running as a gubernatorial candidate.

The filing deadline was June 14.

PACs and individuals could face a $50-a-day fine for their tardiness. Yet, “our goal is to get disclosure rather than to balance the budget on fine money,” said Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst to Idaho Reports Tuesday. “So we may coddle the candidates and PACs more than we should.”

The Idaho Realtors were not the only pro-Brad Little PAC who missed the June 14 deadline. The Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC who raised $22,060 and spent $16,623, which included donations to Little, will also be receiving a fine letter. 

Many of the letter recipients may be confused when they open their mailbox.

Idaho Reports reached out to the Secretary of State’s office at 11:30 am on Tuesday with a list of PACs whose reports did not appear on the state’s website. Hurst responded in an email by saying “The PAC’s listed below have (y)et to file their post-primary reports. It has not yet been determined if a fine will be imposed.”

Idaho Reports then reached out to the six PACs Hurst said had not reported. Several did not respond.  Others disputed the idea that they had not reported.  

Sue Wigdorski, the treasurer for the Political Action Committee for Education, told Idaho Reports “I think you may not have the correct report. We did file on time.”

“The issue will be resolved by tomorrow at the latest,” wrote Max Pond of the Idaho Realtors to Idaho Reports in an email on Tuesday. The realtors have “a history of always accurately reporting and, in some cases, over-reporting. We will continue to do so.”

Around 3:30 pm, Hurst started to change the story. Idaho Reports had earlier asked about the Senate Democratic Caucus report. “Lisa told me the Senate Democratic Caucus has filed,” Hurst responded to Idaho Reports inquiry. “She is checking to see why it wasn’t posted and will get it there.”

At that same time, the secretary of state’s office began posting reports on the website which was 12 days after the deadline. Every sunshine disclosure pointed out by Idaho Reports had been posted by 4:00 pm except the Idaho Realtors PAC and the Senate Democratic caucus.

Idaho Reports asked Hurst if his previous statement that the PACs had yet to file was still accurate. Hurst said “the statement is no longer accurate. I just checked again with our campaign finance people who told me the reports for PACE (Political Action Committee for Education), Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC, Idaho Wheat and Barley PAC, and IAFF Local I-83 Political Action Committee were received today.”

The reports are time stamped by the Secretary of State’s office. Two of the filings are in fact time stamped June 26, the day Hurst claimed. Two are not. Take a look:

IAFFPACEBarleyAG&NAT

A little after 4:00 pm on Tuesday, Idaho Reports received an email from Dorothy Canary of the Secretary of State’s office.

“We have received all of the reports that you listed except for Realtors PAC,” Canary said, “The fine letter went out in today’s mail so the fine will begin on June 28th of $50.00 dollars a day until the report is received in our office per Idaho Code 67-6625A.”

The realtors were not the only people to receive this letter. Several PACs that had already filed the 30-day report will also be receiving the message. Here is the list and status of all recipients as of Wednesday morning:

AIA Idaho Political Action Committee (No 30-day Report), Idaho Democratic Latino Caucus (No 30-day Report), Idaho Social List (Reported), Meridian Firefighters IAFF Local 4627 (Nothing reported this cycle), Opportunity Idaho Committee (Reported), Realtors PAC (No 30-day Report), Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC (Reported), Idaho Wheat & Barley PAC (Reported), Fair Share Idaho (No 30-day Report), Keep Idaho Elections Accountable, Liberty Shoot (Nothing reported this cycle), Local 5005 Worley Firefighters PAC (No 30-day Report).

Three individuals who ran for elected office should also be checking their mail; Dalton B Cannady (No 30-day Report), LeeJoe Lay (Reported), Jay Waters III (Nothing reported this cycle).

“Prior to send(ing) out fine letters to those who missed the filing deadline,” Hurst said. “Our office calls and e-mails the various treasurers who have not filed reminding them to get their reports in.”

Despite the calls and emails there still appears to be some significant miscommunication in the process. Multiple people on the above list will receive a letter despite having already filed their 30-day report, and almost two weeks after the deadline there is still a slim chance of fines.

“This is a total miscommunication on my behalf,” Pond told Idaho Reports. “We will be in compliance today. I have successfully uploaded the documents.”

Shortly before this story published The Idaho Realtors PAC 30-day report appeared on the Secretary of States website.

 

Standard