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September 1, 2017

Mayor Marilyn Strickland
City of Tacoma

Dear Mayor Strickland and esteemed City Council members,

We write to you as groups that work in solidarity with people held in the Northwest
Detention Center (NWDC), detainees’ families, and those at risk of immigration detention.
The current hunger strikes by people detained at the NWDC have brought renewed attention
to the deplorable conditions at the GEO-owned facility. By putting their own health on the
line to highlight human rights abuses occurring at the facility, the hunger strikers have created
the imperative for those of us on the outside to respond to their urgent demands.

The City of Tacoma has the power to do the following: modify Tacoma Municipal Code to
ensure that residential facilities (including immigrant detention centers and juvenile detention
centers) should only be located in zoned residential areas; renew the emergency ordinance to
prevent the facility’s expansion; and revoke GEO’s business license.

1) Continued human rights abuses at the NWDC demonstrate that the facility is unable
(or unwilling) to meet minimum residential standards. Recent hospitalizations have
occurred due to mis-prescribed medication, a suicide attempt by someone who was
left alone in the shower with a razor blade despite documented mental health
problems, and an incident where someone lost consciousness due to the NWDC
refusing to fix a broken air conditioning unit for weeks. The above are issues that
occurred only in the last month. In a February 24, 2017 letter to GEO Group, Mayor
Strickland noted that the city Director of Finance, Andy Cherullo, must revoke
business licenses of those that violate any local, state or federal law relating to
public health or safety pursuant to Tacoma Municipal Code 68.10.140(6). Given
these persistent and ongoing issues, it is urgent that the City of Tacoma revoke GEO’s
license to operate a business that, by its very nature, violates human health and safety.

2) Until the facility is shut down, the Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) should be
amended to block its expansion by making emergency Ordinance No. 28417
permanent. This would amendTacoma Municipal Code (TMC) Sections 13.06.100,
13.06.200, 13.06.300, 13.06.400, and 13.06.700 to remove correctional facilities as
permitted use in M-2 and PMI districts in the Commencement Bay/Tideflats
Superfund Site.

3) To ensure that the Northwest Detention Center is complying with Tacoma
Municipal Code 68.10.140(6), relevant public health agencies should conduct
unannounced inspections. To date, it is our understanding that kitchen and laundry
facilities have only been inspected when the GEO staff was given time to prepare and
when it was convenient for the facility. In order to ensure a comprehensive and
accurate understanding of the facility’s compliance with the city’s health and safety
standards, we recommend unscheduled and announced inspections.

The detention center affects not only the 1,575 people who may be held there at any given
day, but also their children, families, and neighbors who form the backbone of our
communities. We call on the City of Tacoma to take responsibility for ensuring the public
health and safety crisis posed by the Northwest Detention Center


Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDCR)

cc: Andy Cherullo, Finance Director
cc: Elizabeth Pauli, Interim City Manager

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