We are writing as members of the Durham Association of Educators in NC. As teachers, it is our job to make sure our students can learn and grow. And when they can’t, it is our duty to fight for that to change. We have received disturbing news regarding one of our students, Wilden Guillen Acosta (206 799 049), who is being held in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. On Tuesday, June 7th, he was placed into solitary confinement for minor administrative violations, the last of which occurred while Wildin was helping a fellow inmate translate a letter from Spanish to English. Along with Wildin, we are unsure why he was issued this third citation for an act of kindness and sharing knowledge- something we highly encourage in our classrooms.
More troubling is the fact that this sentence occurred the day before his high school graduation from Riverside High School- something we know was on his mind after working so diligently in our classes to ensure his graduation before he was detained and repeatedly requesting his school work while in detention. The psychological effects of solitary confinement are debilitating and we worry about the impact on Wildin as he faces such a long time alone, especially after just having missed his high school graduation. The timing couldn’t be worse.
We are disturbed to learn from Wildin that on his first day in “the hole,” all of the restricted housing units were full and so Wildin was placed in a cell with a detainee who was mentally unstable and violent. In addition to the threat this posed to Wildin’s safety and well-being, it is troubling to see evidence that suggests solitary confinement is being used in the absence of mental health support for inmates.
Moreover, the sequence of events leading to this disproportionate sentence lead us to believe that Wildin is facing retaliation from CCA and ICE for being a high profile detainee who is an outspoken advocate about the conditions of confinement in Stewart and his own prolonged detention. These citations come after Rep Butterfield’s visit to Stewart and during a week of action for Wildin. Furthermore, these citations are very minor and punishment in solitary confinement is grossly disproportionate. We do not believe that community support should result in mistreatment, and as teachers, we are committed to continue fighting for the safety and rights of our student until his release.
We are concerned that this sentence was originally for 45 days in restricted housing, and that it was only reduced to 15 days due to the advocacy of our Congressman Butterfield. The severity of Wildin’s initial sentence leads us to believe that he will continue to be targeted for retaliation by CCA personnel and ICE. As a result we are calling for his immediate release. Wildin is clearly not safe in this jail and retaliation will continue as long as he is detained. We are also calling for the immediate release of the 12+ other young people currently detained at Stewart and Irwin Detention Centers, as we believe they are facing similar conditions and their mental well-being is at risk.
To Wildin and all the youth in detention: We see you, we see what is happening, and we will fight until all of you are back in our classrooms and communities where you belong.
Durham Association of Educators