On March 26, 2021, Make the Road PA and seven individual residents of Berks County sued the Berks County Commissioners for violating the Sunshine Act. The complaint alleged that the Commissioners engaged in secret deliberations relating to a proposal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for future use of the Berks family prison. All immigrant families were released from Berks family prison on February 25, 2021. It was reported shortly afterwards that ICE and Berks County were planning to convert the building to a prison for adult immigrant women.
The plaintiffs were represented by the Sheller Center for Social Justice, Syrena Law, Free Migration Project, Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, and Al Otro Lado. Several of the plaintiffs were members of the Shut Down Berks Coalition, which released a statement about the lawsuit on March 30. The plaintiffs withdrew the suit after the Berks County Commissioners held an open public meeting in August 2021. The Commissioners moved forward with the conversion plan despite unanimous opposition to the conversion plan from county residents who spoke at the meeting. ICE began detaining women at the Berks prison in late January 2022 before closing the prison in January 2023.
- Complaint – 3/26/2021
- County’s Preliminary Objections, with memorandum – 4/20/2021
- Plaintiffs’ Response to Preliminary Objections, with memorandum – 5/19/2021
- Judge’s Order Relating to Preliminary Objections – 6/7/2021
- County Commissioners’ Letter of Support for ICE’s White Paper (plan for expansion and conversion of Berks family prison) – 2/23/2021
Media and Outreach:
Press Release – 3/30/2021