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Regarding the Licensing of Karnes Detention Center as a Childcare Center
To: Ms. Vanessa Crum ([email protected]
From: Rev. Traci Smith, San Antonio, TX
RE: Karnes Residential Facility
Dear Ms. Crum,
I write to express my grief that your department is considering granting a license to the Karnes Family Detention facility, and to urge you to consider the implications of this. If you grant a childcare license to Karnes, you will be responsible for perpetuating the trauma and abuse of innocent children who are locked behind bars. The purpose of Karnes Detention Center is not to provide childcare.
Below you will see a photo of a young boy named Diego (who was housed in Karnes approximately a year ago) and my two children, Clayton and Samuel, who were born in the United States. Clayton and Samuel both attend childcare centers that are licensed by the state of Texas.
During his time in detention, I visited Diego and his mother regularly. Diego was never free to leave the premises of Karnes facility to go to a park, get a haircut, or go to worship on Sunday morning. Diego regularly had nightmares and outbursts of grief. He would hit his head on the wall. He did not smile or laugh. Upon his release from detention, he began to slowly recover. Over time, with fresh air, the ability to be free, and a truly nurturing and structured environment, the pain and trauma of detention began to fade into the background, though I’m sure he will never forget it.
The fact that Texas DFPS is even considering granting a childcare license to Karnes Family Detention center makes me gravely concerned for the standards of licensing that guide the care of my own children when they are in state-licensed facilities. If the state of Texas is willing to concede that a for profit prison corporation who does not let children leave the premises of a locked facility qualifies as childcare, then what does this say about the quality of the licensing process in general? If DFPS grants a license to Karnes, it tells me that they don’t, in fact, care about the well-being of children. This makes me worried about the safety of my own children. Granting a license to the Karnes facility makes a mockery of the licensing process and is bad for all true childcare facilities in the state of texas.
The purpose of your department is to protect children and look after their well being, not jail them. The effects of detention on children are well documented by medical professionals and child psychologists. It’s inconceivable that your department would even consider licensing a facility where children are not free.
Please consider the implications of what your department is doing by granting a license to children who are not free. This is giving your stamp of approval to the shameful practice of locking up children in jails. Don’t be complicit in this immoral practice.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, or for comment. My contact information can be found in my email signature below.
Reverend Traci Smith
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