The calls to close down a Southwest Florida program after close to 100 complaints about the treatment of immigration detainees at the Glades County Detention Center are getting louder.
WINK Investigative Reporter Peter Fleischer spoke with a detainee who spent more than a year at the facility and says he now fears for his life as he awaits possible deportation.
Sitting in rural Southwest Florida, barbed wire and nondescript buildings set the mood at the Glades County Detention Center. 50-year-old Jamaican immigrant Rollin Manning spent 15 months there. He first came to the U.S. in 2016 for his mother’s funeral and never left.
Manning was detained in 2020 and brought to the Glades County Detention Center in August of that year. “It was real hard,” said Manning.
WINK News connected with Manning over a service that allows detainees to communicate with the outside world and spoke with him about his time at the Glades County Detention Center. “I’m facing hardships here. Nobody looks at me the way they look at you guys. You get more respect than I do,” Manning said.
Complaints include denial of medical care, excessive use of force, and unsanitary conditions.
Manning spent more than a year at the Glades County Detention Center until Nov. 23, 2021.
According to a Glades County Sheriff’s Office investigation, a carbon monoxide leak occurred in the kitchen where Manning and others were working. “I began to feel sick. I was sweating uncontrollably. I could not catch my breath. My chest was tight,” said Manning.
The report shows several detainees, including Manning, were hospitalized. He says he still feels effects from carbon monoxide poisoning, which research shows can be permanent in severe cases. “If I cough, I cough blood. And there’s no treatment for me.” Manning said, “I feel dizzy and weak right now as I’m talking to you. Right now, I’m afraid for my life.”
Katie Blankenship, with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Glades County has had issues with the safety and treatment of detainees. “They are systemically abusive and inhumane. There is a pattern of persistent inhumane conditions,” said Blankenship. “The damage and the trauma is immeasurable. I think lives are ruined.”
According to the Florida Detention Database, 96 human rights complaints have been reported at the Glades facility. That is the most of any detention center in the state. 77 of those complaints have been filed with the Department of Homeland Security.
“A lot of people get mistreated. Medic sprays and all of that for speaking up for their rights. Be locked away in a dark cell for several days. A lot of mistreatment and all of that,” said Manning.
“They’re in civil detention and yet not only being treated like criminal prisoners but worse than that, being treated in a way that no human on the planet should be treated,” said Blankenship.
The Glades County facility is run by local law enforcement and kept open by taxpayer dollars. Records show it is required to keep a 300-bed minimum. Right now, officials say there are only 14 detainees housed.
With its history of complaints, the ACLU says Glades County is not fit to continue as an ICE detention center. “There is no other option but for this contract to be terminated. Our position is that glades county and glades county sheriff’s office is incapable and unwilling to operate this facility,” Blankenship said.
After manning was hospitalized, he was sent to Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County, where he continues to wait through the trial process.
He says life isn’t much better at Krome, which has the second-most complaints in the detention database. Several other Florida facilities have also reported issues. “It is pervasive in the entire immigration system in the United States. We see this type of treatment in many of our Florida detention centers,” said Blankenship.
Manning fears being deported to Jamaica, claiming he has been assaulted over his sexuality. “I’m a bisexual person, so I think I’m going to die. In jamaica, they burn people, chop them up,” said Manning.
He says he has six children and is desperate to remain in the U.S., hoping to work, make an honest living, and be safely allowed to be who he is. “Nobody is in Jamaica for me. I have no home there no more,” said Manning.
WINK News has reached out to the Glades County Sheriff’s Office about the ICE detention center’s complaints but has not heard back.
Glades County is up for renewal as an ICE facility in April.