Via The Law Offices of Matthew J. Archambeault, Esq.:

PRESS RELEASE

The Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and attorney Matthew J. Archambeault announce today they have filed suit against the Berks County Residential Center, its Executive Director and a former guard, among others, in response to several sexual assaults committed by a former guard, Daniel Sharkey, against a woman refugee from Honduras formerly detained at the facility as a result of the Obama Administration’s ramped up family detention program.

“E.D”, as she is referred to in the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for privacy concerns, fled Honduras in the spring of 2014 with her 3 year old son due to domestic sexual violence. “E.D” and her son’s journey to the U.S. resulted in their detention at the Berks County Residential Center (BCRC), while they were in the custody of Immigration andCustom’s Enforcement.

The BCRC houses families, mostly from Central America, who fled to the US seeking asylum BCRCis a secured facility which houses approximately 90 persons, both adults and children. The BCRCemploys guards to oversee the detainees and to monitor their movements. Immigration detainees are not permitted to leave the facility, and immigration detention centers frequently operate similar to jails and prisons. BCRC is contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

When E.D. arrived to BCRC, guard Daniel Sharkey began the process of “grooming” E.D., initiating a pattern of sexual abuse that culminated in two sexual assaults in the main women’s bathroom during late afternoon and early evening hours. These attacks were witnessed by at least one of the child detainees housed at the facility. Daniel Sharkey has recently pled guilty to institutional sexual assault against E.D. and is currently serving six to twenty three months in jail.

These incidents took place in the middle of the day, in an area well-traveled by both detainees and staff. The complaint alleges that Diane Edwards, the Executive Director of the BCRC, oversaw an environment where guard Sharkey felt empowered to be able to commit these sexual assaults in such a public area.

E.D. and her three year old son spent close to 8 months in detention, which means Sharkey might spend less time in jail than E.D. spent in comparable jail-like conditions for seeking asylum. Matthew Archambeault, E.D.’s immigration attorney, first learned of the sexual assaults in October of 2014 and immediately and repeatedly requested that ICE release her and her son from the facility where she had been subjected to the sexual abuse. All of these requests were denied. It was not until the conclusion of her immigration hearing in December, shortly before Christmas, that ICE agreed to release E.D.and her son.