Grassroots Leadership Blog

Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.<--break->

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?

For many who are incarcerated and detained, visitation is a lifeline to the community that awaits them in the free world.  The ability to see visitors, which is highly regulated in most carceral facilities, is so powerful that it is generally utilized as a tool to incentivize “good” behavior and compliance with the rules and the culture of prison.  Making visits to prisons, jails and detention centers can be arduous for family and friends who often travel long distances, draw on financial resources, and wait in long lines to connect with the people that they love and care about.  Peoples’ commitment to make these visits is an important public service for helping to ensure community ties and support networks when prisoners are released; factors well-known to have positive impacts on recidivism rates.     

We are appalled to learn of CCA’s recent humiliation of a female visitor, a regular, to one of their Tennessee facilities where she was forced by guards to expose her genitals to prove that she was menstruating.  According to a federal lawsuit filed this week, despite already being cleared through one security checkpoint and offering to relinquish the sanitary napkin that prompted the scrutiny, she was not free to leave the facility without being searched.

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Will CCA punish Vermont for progress? Even in the face of penalties, VT Corrections Commissioner brings prisoners home

On Monday, Vtdigger reported that this week the number of Vermonters incarcerated out-of-state will drop to the lowest number in a decade, with Vermont officials slowly bringing prisoners home from a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison in Kentucky. Read more about Will CCA punish Vermont for progress? Even in the face of penalties, VT Corrections Commissioner brings prisoners home

Humpday Hall of Shame: CCA, put your money where your flimsy PR campaign is

In a September 2014 press release Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) CEO Damon Hininger stated, “We are determined to prove that we can play a leadership role in reducing recidivism and that we have every incentive to do so. The interests of government, taxpayers, shareholders, and communities are aligned. We all just need to recognize that and commit to that.”  The media framed this apparent sea change for the largest private for-profit prison company as sound reaction to the realities of incarceration and recidivism; that reincarceration is costly, largely because rates of recidivism remain high.  Recent studies have found that recidivism is higher than average at privately operated prisons.

At Grassroots Leadership we know that investing in re-entry and rehabilitation is a key component to driving down rates of incarceration, but we weren’t so quick to applaud what seemed to us a dubious announcement by CCA.  How is it that an industry that relies on ever-increasing numbers of people behind (their) bars could stay in business if it’s suddenly going to invest in getting and keeping people out?  The plain and simple answer is that it can’t, unless it changes its business model.  

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Confronting the border

In mid-October I had the good fortune to be invited on a trip to the border of Texas and Mexico. I was auditing a class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary called, “The Church, The Borderlands, and The Public Good”—all themes that I wrestle with as I learn more about immigration issues during this year of service for my church.

So far, I had felt connected to the work I'm doing here at Grassroots Leadership, and grounded in the knowledge that I am effecting systemic and individual change. The day I started was the day we started the campaign to get Sara and Nayely released from Karnes. Then I met Sara and Nayely when I took them to the hospital for an appointment. When I visited Hutto I met another woman who has been severely affected by the violence in Central America, and the subsequent violence of being locked in a prison in the country she fled to—the United States. Going to the border in October made the work that I do on the immigration team at Grassroots Leadership feel more realistic. 

 

Panoramic view of the bridge between Mexico and the U.S.
The view of the bridge between Mexico and the U.S.

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Help Grow Grassroots Leadership in 2015!

At Grassroots Leadership, we believe no one should profit from the incarceration of human beings. Every day, we confront a for-profit prison system that spends millions of dollars to ensure a steady stream of people fill their prisons and detention centers.  

With your help, we are able to make an impact even against this well-funded opposition.  Our hard-working staff, board, volunteers, allies, and donors organize for policies that reduce our nation's tragic reliance on incarceration and fight to end the profit motive in our criminal justice, immigration detention, and treatment systems.  

Thank you for all your support of Grassroots Leadership.  Our work would not be possible without you.  

Please considering making a year-end donation today towards our work.   You can also mail a donation to Grassroots Leadership, PO Box 36006, Charlotte, NC, 28236. 

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UNBELIEVABLE: Private prison corporation opening new family detention center accidentally tear-gassed children at S. Texas school

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the same for-profit prison corporation opening a controversial new detention center for refugee families this week in Dilley, Texas, accidentally tear-gassed children last week at a South Texas middle school near another one of its prisons. Read more about UNBELIEVABLE: Private prison corporation opening new family detention center accidentally tear-gassed children at S. Texas school

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