Florence Prison

WithRobert S. Kahn

Seventy miles north of Tucson, on a flat, dusty plain in the desert, is the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) prison at Florence. The only attorney who worked regularly at the prison was Dave Myers, a Catholic priest from Guadalupe, a Yaqui Indian barrio near Phoenix. The Department of Justice was turning Florence into a Cuban prison, transferring Cuban convicts to it as they were released from state and federal prisons. Florence and El Centro are the most physically brutal immigration prisons. Florence is the older, more primitive prison. The Cubans who rioted and destroyed Florence immigration prison that summer did not riot because of brutality or unfair treatment from prison guards. In 1985, no Salvadoran had ever won political asylum while detained in an immigration prison. The day-to-day legal struggle in the prisons had nothing to do with justice: It focused on bonding people out.