About Berks

Picture by Steve Pavey

The Berks County Detention Center, known officially as the Berks County Residential Center, is a prison for immigrant families where children as young as two-weeks-old have been incarcerated. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (“PA DHS”) is responsible for erroneously licensing the facility to operate, despite its mission to “provide and promote safety and permanency for children and youth at risk of abuse, neglect, and delinquency.” Berks is currently operating in direct violation of the license according to Pennsylvania law. DHS Secretary Ted Dallas needs to immediately issue an Emergency Removal Order so the families can be released.
Incarceration of families, simply put, is immoral. Families have suffered trauma in order to come to the U.S. only to be met with more abuse at the hands of our government. Families detained in the Berks County Detention Center have reported verbal, labor, and sexual abuse from staff; have suffered from medical neglect; and are now having their due process rights violated by ICE, which has begun to deport families before they are allowed sufficient time to find legal counsel.
The continued operation of the Berks County Detention Center not only violates state regulations; it also operates in violation of federal law. In recent months Federal Judge Gee ruled twice that the incarceration of families in secure or unlicensed facilities is in direct violation of the previous court settlement agreed to by ICE and ordered the immediate release of families currently incarcerated in ICE facilities. As the fight continues to close all Immigrant Detention Centers across the country, we call for the immediate closure of the Berks County Detention Center.
PA DHS has publicly recognized that the center is in violation of the license and as of Monday, February 22, 2016 BCRC has been operating without a license. Given the record of inhumane conditions and given that the operation of BCRC is against state and federal law, we demand that BCRC be immediately shut down. PA DHS should order an Emergency Removal of families while the appeal is in process, the County Commissioners should drop their appeal and stop participating in this painful and inhumane practice, and ICE should end their policy of family detention and be held accountable for their violation of Federal law.
The Shut Down Berks Campaign is a grassroots coalition fighting to shut down the Berks County Detention Center immediately and end family detention. Members include Detention Watch NetworkGALAEI, Juntos, #Not1MoreMigrant Power MovementPICCUUPlan and We Belong Together. We also want to thank all the pro-bono attorneys who have worked tirelessly to represent the families in detention or in deportation proceedings: Caitlin Barry, David Bennion, Jackie Kline, Bridget Cambria and Carol Anne Donohoe.

Take action now

  • Sign our petition  to shut down Berks.
  • If you are an organization, a faith community, a business, a law firm, or a university and you want to support, fill out or organizational sign-on form to shut down Berks. You can see the list of other organizations that have signed on here. You can see the list of organizations that have already signed on here.

Tome acción ya

Organizations that have already signed-on

Organizaciones que ya han firmado en apoyo