At all ten of the facilities, people reported waiting weeks or months for medical care; inadequate, and in some cases a total absence, of any outdoor recreation time or access to sunlight or fresh air; minimal and inedible food; the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and the extreme remoteness of many of the facilities from any urban area which makes access to legal services nearly impossible.
Detention Watch Network calls for the immediate closure of these facilities. One of these detention centers is the Tri-County Detention Center which is the only privately-run immigrant detention center in Illinois. You can read a summary of the terrible conditions at Tri-County HERE (PDF).
Yesterday, the Sentencing Project released a new report about private prisons titled “Too Good To Be True.”
The report details the history of private prisons in America, documents the increase in their use, and examines their supposed benefits. Among the report’s major findings:
1. From 1999 to 2010 the use of private prisons increased by 40 percent at the state level and by 784 percent in the federal prison system.
2. In 2010 seven states housed more than a quarter of their prison population in private facilities.
3. Claims of private prisons’ cost effectiveness are overstated and largely illusory.
4. The services provided by private prisons are generally inferior to those found in publicly operated facilities.
5. Private prison companies spend millions of dollars each year attempting to influence policy at the state and federal level.
The following table shows the dramatic increase in prisoners held in private prisons in the U.S. over the last decade:
Prisoners Held in Private Prisons in the United States
|Total Prison Population||
I am grateful to a young man who sent this over to me last month. I have been listening to it often. Below is the video from Akala titled “Fire in the Booth.” It is 8 minutes long but you really should listen to the entire thing. You can thank me later.
Here is the song again but this time with the lyrics on screen:
Regular readers know that I have written about the intersection between immigrant detention and the prison industrial complex intermittently on this blog. You can find some of the posts here, here, and here.
Just recently I’ve become aware of the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is attempting to build a huge, private immigrant detention center in a small town called Crete, Illinois, just south of Cook County. A coalition of individuals and organizations are mobilizing to create an action plan to stop this center from being built. As I get more information on that campaign, I will of course share it here.
In the meantime, I have come across a few resources that I would like to share about how criminalizing immigrants is big business. First, I suggest that everyone check out the Immigrants for Sale site. They are doing great work raising public awareness about these issues. Below is one of their latest videos about how private prisons are profiting off the detention of immigrants.
Another resource that I discovered over the past six months is a series of audio stories by the Common Language Project about the history of immigration detention and also about how immigrants are being treated in detention in the state of Washington today. They are excellent and informative. I highly recommend listening.
The excellent PBS show called “NOW” did a terrific expose about the nexus between immigrant detention and private prisons in 2008. You can watch that report here.
Finally, I am privileged to own two limited editions of a zine titled Detained by artist Eroyn Franklin. The zine follows the story of two immigrants as they navigate the detention process. The publication is educational and moving. I don’t know if there are still copies available but you can see various photographs of the images which were displayed as part of an exhibit earlier this year.
I read a distressing article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal yesterday.
Apparently the town of Pahrump is welcoming a new private prison:
Community leaders in this recession-stricken town are eagerly anticipating the arrival of about 1,000 new residents, so long as they stay where they belong behind the stun fence and razor wire.
A new medium-security detention center for federal inmates is set to open Oct. 1 in Nye County’s largest community, and some say it’s already giving the town a much-needed economic boost.
The first paragraph of the story is all kinds of wrong but let’s move on.
The privately owned and operated facility is bringing 234 new full-time jobs to town, roughly half of which have been filled by local residents.
It also will bring in as many as 1,072 inmates under a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service.
“Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country, and Nye County has a higher rate than the state of Nevada,” County Commission Chairman Gary Hollis said during the prison’s dedication ceremony last week . “This is a very good day for many people in our community who now have a good, high-paying job.”
Nye County Manager Rick Osborne said unemployment in the rural county stood at 16.7 percent in June. At the very least, he said, the new prison should keep that from getting any worse.
The $83.5 million facility is owned by Corrections Corporation of America, a Tennessee-based company that builds and operates prisons across the country.
I really can understand the town’s desperation for jobs with an almost 17% unemployment rate. In addition, I am always mindful that there are real people living in real places who need to have their basic needs met. I am not discounting this reality. However, a number of reports have underscored the fact that while prisons can bring some immediate economic benefits to small rural towns in the medium and long run they tend to benefit the private companies and their shareholders a lot more than the town and their residents. A terrific illustration of this truth can be seen in the film by Katie Galloway called Prison Town, USA. The film shows the impact that a massive prison has on community residents and local businesses in a small town in California called Susanville.
The Prison Town comic published by Lois Aherns at the Real Costs of Prisons Project also highlights the fact that the purported positive economic impact of prisons for local communities is overstated to say the least.
AFSCME has put together a good mythbuster document about private prisons and their supposed economic and social benefits. You can read that here. Finally, in terms of other convincing research, Good Jobs First did a good case study of the economic impact of private prisons.
The final sentence of the article is symbolic of the place that prisons have in many communities:
At the request of residents, CCA surrounded the prison with an earthen berm that almost completely hides the structure from view.
I decided to feature a visual representation of the black imprisonment rates in 2000 and 2009 according to the states with the highest rates in 2000. The states that are currently driving black incarceration are Texas, California, and Florida. This is in response to an e-mail request from Kevin T.
Feel free to print a PDF version of this chart here.
I have been meaning to blog about this subject in greater depth than I have. You cannot understand the Prison Industrial Complex without having some knowledge about corrupting power of money in our political system. I have over the past few weeks cataloged the intersections between commerce and prisons. I have also highlighted the various connections between the passage of racist and anti-immigrant laws like S.B. 1070 and the expansion of private prisons. Local and now Investigative reporting is explicitly linking Jan Brewer and her administration to big money supporters in the private prison industry and questioning whether the passage of S.B. 1070 might be connected to this. These are steps in the right direction but much more still needs to be done to inform the general public. When even high profile escapes from private prisons do not deter local politicians in Arizona from endorsing and advocating for private prisons, one knows that public pressure opposing these entities is not strong enough.
If you don’t do anything else, this week please take some time to review the following information about the Corrections Corporation of America’s Political Action Committee. In several easy charts, you can review which politicians received contributions from this private prison juggernaut in the 2008 cycle and you can begin to connect the dots on your own between our politicians and the expansion of prisons across the United States. You will be able to see that while more republican politicians have received contributions from CCA, there are several democrats who are also patrons. This is an equal opportunity attempt to grease the wheels in their favor.
I have been suggesting that S.B. 1070 is not only racist but is also a play to increase the profits of private prisons. As the Geo Group and Cornell Companies merge to form giant private prison empires, more research is needed to document how much money these companies stand to make by criminalizing immigration status. As such, I was pleased to find the following article today highlighting a recent study by Grassroots Leadership about how criminalizing the undocumented boosts for-profit-prisons.
From the article:
Bob Libal, a co-author of “Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande,” presented findings at a panel hosted by the Open Society Institute in July. He noted that since 2005, an estimated $1.2 billion in federal dollars — in Texas alone — have been funneled into warehousing the undocumented in predominantly for-profit private jails and detention centers, while they await trial or serve sentences prior to deportation.
In 2002, according to the report, 2,770 immigrants were sentenced to prison for crossing the border without authorization in two Texas districts along the border. In 2009, that number soared to 44,517. “The expanded criminal add civil immigration detention system has been a huge financial boon to private prison corporations, such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) and management and Training Corporation (MTC),” the report found.
More documentation and studies on this phenomenon please…
Private Prison Companies Continue to Rake in the Cash…Cornell Companies reports $103.9 million in revenues
Cornell Companies reported revenues of $103.9 million in the second quarter.
They also reported that:
For the six months ended June 30, 2010, revenues were $203.9 million as compared to $205.0 million for the first six months of 2009. The decrease was principally related to the D. Ray James Prison facility transition, and as well the available capacity at those programs (including our two small California community correctional facilities) mentioned earlier. As previously noted, the 2010 period included revenues of approximately $2.7 million resulting from the guaranteed population contract at the Regional Correctional Center for the contract years March 26, 2007 through March 25, 2008 and March 26, 2008 through March 25, 2009.
“Corrections” is big-business worldwide.