On any given day, at least 34,000 people are detained in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. to meet an arbitrary lock-up quota dictated by Congress. Stopping the quota would be a giant step forward in ending our reliance on detention. Grassroots Leadership researches and exposes the role of for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in enacting the quota contributes to the growing national movement to stop immigrant detention.
Detention and the #ShutDownHutto Campaign
Read more about Key takeaways from new report on private prison payoff from the immigrant detention quota
AUSTIN, TEXAS — A new report released today by Grassroots Leadership, a national social justice organization that works to end for-profit incarceration, examines the increasing seizure of the immigrant detention industry by for-profit prison corporations and their extensive lobbying of Congress to protect their bottom line. Since the creation of the immigrant detention bed quota in 2009, the immigrant detention industry has become 13 percent more privatized. Read more about New Report: Rise in For-Profit Detention Corresponds with Millions in Lobbying by Private Prisons
"Individual women have shared their experiences at Karnes in letters posted to the website of the End Family Detention advocacy network. One woman who has been held there since the facility was converted into a family detention center last August wrote that her daughter wasn't eating and was losing weight. She was also worried about unsuitable drinking water at the center, which is located in an area where thousands of oil and gas wells have been drilled, but didn't have enough money to buy water from the store. Colorlines reported that the women are paid $3 a day to work at the facility -- the price of a single bottle of water.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokespeople have denied being aware of a hunger strike at the center. However, advocates in contact with the detainees reported that the women experienced retaliation from guards and ICE officials in response to the protest. Three women and their children were even locked in an unlit room in the medical infirmary on the first day of the strike. Mothers were also threatened with separation from their children and with deportations. Such threats are routinely made in the facility in response to issues like children's misbehavior but increased during the strike, according to Cristina Parker withGrassroots Leadership, a nonprofit that advocates for the abolition of private prisons." Read more about Immigrant mothers held in private detention facility in Texas threaten to renew hunger strike
Last week, 80 mothers detained in the Karnes County family detention facility with their children embarked on a fast to protest their detention, and bring awareness to the conditions that they face inside the facility. Read more about What happened while the #KarnesMoms were fasting
"ICE also claimed it was unaware of any residents actually participating in the strike, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the agency "fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, and all detainees, including those in family residential facilities such as Karnes, are permitted to do so."
It also said it was investigating claims that members of a nonprofit advocacy group encouraged the women to take part in the hunger strike—a charge which activists deny.
Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at the Texas-based immigrant rights group Grassroots Leadership, told the Guardian on Tuesday, 'This is something that has been rippling through the centre almost since it opened. I don’t believe at all that they were coached into doing this.'
According to Parker, the center is now blocking access to internet and telephone facilities for all of its detainees, regardless of whether they are participating in the hunger strike." Read more about Dozens of Mothers Stage Hunger Strike at Immigrant Detention Center in Texas
Private prison companies GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) recently released proxy materials revealing million dollar compensations for their top executives. Both documents included charts that reflected salary figures, stock awards, option awards, among various other means of monetary compensation. Read more about While mothers and children languish in detention, private prison companies reveal million dollar compensations for top executives
We release this three-part series now to harken back to our own roots in the struggle(s) for true justice, and to spotlight the re-emergence of a flourishing prison divestment movement in which students, again, are playing a central role. It is in this context that Grassroots Leadership and our long-time partner Enlace, are anchoring major national actions against CCA and the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison companies, in May 2015. We hope that this series will elucidate the historic power that individuals have had on challenging the for-profit prison industry, and to compel participation in the exciting events on the horizon.
- April 19-25, National Week of Engagement for Prison Divestment
- May 2, Dilley Texas: Close Dilley, #EndFamilyDetention
- May 3-5, Boca Raton, Florida: We Want Freedom, Breaking the Chains and Transforming Communities
Kymberlie's Story, Earlham College, Class of ‘02Read more about Grassroots Leadership's roots in prison divestment, Part I: Kymberlie's story
When the U.S. Bureau of Prisons canceled its contract with Willacy County last week, it explained that the federal inmate population was down, and it didn't need additional beds.
Criminal justice trends ebb and flow. Bob Libal tracks the corrections industry for the Austin activist group Grassroots Leadership. He says where once it was easy to find inmates for a private prison, Willacy County will likely learn now it's tougher to fill prison beds.
"Around the state we have seen several communities that have had their private prisons fail and they're left holding the bag when it comes to the debt that they floated," he says. Read more about Closure Of Private Prison Forces Texas County To Plug Financial Gap
Last week, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it would terminate its contract with the privately run Texas prison where inmates rioted last month––setting part of the facility on fire––over substandard healthcare, among other abhorrent conditions there.
But observers warn that while there has been an encouraging drop in the number of drug-related incarcerations, the specter of immigration incarceration remains a national priority.
"It's certainly true that there's been a drop in the number of people detained that areincarcerated for drug offenses because of some of the reforms that have been implemented by the Department of Justice," Bob Libal, executive director of the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, told ATTN:. "But what hasn't changed dramatically is a change in the incarceration of immigrants for migration crimes...particularly reentering the country after being deported, which is the second most prosecuted crime in the entire federal system."
"For us, the closure of Willacy is a good thing––the very first step in what we hope are reforms of the prison system that include shuttering all of these CAR contract facilities...continuing drug reforms, but also reforms to the prioritization of immigration prosecution," Libal said. Read more about Texas Private Prison Closed After Rioting Over Poor Conditions