Crossing the border was once a matter for civil immigration courts. Now, every day in federal criminal courts along the Southwest border, hundreds of mostly destitute Latino and indigenous Latin American migrants are shackled, charged, convicted and sentenced en masse under the policy called “Operation Streamline.” The program has proven to be a boon for private prisons by funneling tens of thousands of immigrants into federal prisons every year. Through research and advocacy, Grassroots Leadership is fighting for and end to this program.
News that the federal government is rolling back its dealings with private prisons was a big enough deal on Thursday that it sent Corrections Corp stock plummeting within 60 seconds.
It's no small thing: the government's decision to decline or let expire contracts with the 13 private prisons across the country will affect about 40,000 inmates held inside, according to a 2014 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
But this move only affects a fraction of inmates locked up by the private sector: the same report shows over 91,000 are housed in state prisons, which will be untouched by the DOJ's decision. The BJS report does not include private county prisons.
Nor will the decision touch the private detention operations of the Immigration and and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, a bigger client to the private prison industry than the DOJ. ICE is under a mandate to hold 34,000 detainees at a time, and corporations oversee 62 percent of ICE's detention beds.
A damning report by the Inspector General a week ago found private inmates get worse treatment, fewer resources, and shabbier conditions than their counterparts in publicly-run prisons.
"I would still say this is an historic day and may mark a turning point," said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership, a civil rights group that studies and organizes to end private prisons.
"I hope it's one of many big days to come," he added. Read more about The federal shutdown of private prisons only affects a fraction of inmates
Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership executive director, discusses the U.S. government halting a decade-long experiment to hire private companies to help manage the soaring prison population. He speaks with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker and Joe Weisenthal on "Bloomberg Markets." Read more about Prison REITs Sink After U.S. Ends Privately-Run Jails
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Justice has released a report on privately operated prisons that concludes these facilities, some of them located in Texas, have more safety and security incidents than those operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The DOJ looked at incidents that occurred between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2014 and OIG staff visited three private prisons that have contracts with the federal government.
Two of them are in Texas.
They are the Dalby Correctional Facility, which is in the northwest part of the state, and the Eden Detention Center, located about 50 miles east of San Angelo. Read more about DOJ Report: Privately Operated Prisons Less Safe For Inmates And Staff
The DOJ’s decision will impact 13 federal prisons run by private companies, or just over 22,000 incarcerated people. These people will be ostensibly shuffled to publicly-operated prisons, which is still a big problem for those who argue that mass incarceration itself is a profound injustice.
As the anti-prison-profiteering organization Grassroots Leadership explains, “Most privately-operated prisons within the BOP are Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. CAR prisons hold noncitizens, many of whom have been criminally prosecuted for crossing the border.” Bethany Carson, researcher and organizer for the group, said in a press statement, “We hope that this decision will be a stepping stone for the DOJ to end the use of segregated prisons for non-citizens and de-prioritize improper entry and re-entry prosecutions.” Read more about There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons
By now you’ve heard the news: The U.S. Department of Justice will stop using private prisons. The price of stock in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies, plunged 25 percent within a few hours of the announcement Thursday. By the end of the day, the nonprofit group In the Public Interest listed CCA stock’s drop in value as 50 percent and GEO Group’s at 35 percent.
It’s wonderful news and may seem to come out of the blue. But it follows last week’s release of a report by the DOJ that reiterated what advocates have been documenting for years: Private prisons are both less safe and less effective than those run by the government.
Chief among those advocates is the Texas-based group, Grassroots Leadership, which over the past two years has also partnered with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform to highlight Vermont’s practice of shipping men out of state to private prisons. (In July 2015, Vermont’s “overflow” prisoners were moved from a CCA-owned prison in Kentucky to a GEO Group prison in Baldwin, Michigan.) Read more about Suzi Wizowaty: DOJ makes right call on private prisons
The Obama Administration announced last week that the federal Bureau of Prisons will end its reliance on privately-run, for-profit prisons. The facilities, which the Justice Department calls unsafe and expensive, currently house about 22,000 inmates, almost all of whom are not U.S. citizens. While the move will do little to reduce the nation’s overall prison population — now numbering more than 2.2 million — supporters say it’s a crucial step in bringing about broader criminal justice reforms. We discuss the details of the policy change and the prevalence of private prisons across the United States. Read more about Federal Government to Phase Out Use of Some Private Prisons
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Last Friday night a group of immigrants incarcerated at the Eden Detention Center in Concho County, Texas refused to leave the recreation yard and return to their housing units, reportedly in protest of inhumane treatment at the facility. A CCA spokesperson confirmed the peaceful demonstration just after midnight. “A group of inmates at the Eden Detention Center is refusing to leave the recreation yard and return to their housing units. Throughout this incident, they have been passive. Read more about Once again, immigrants protest inhumane treatment in federal for-profit Texas prison, as feds move to shutter similar private prison in New Mexico
People who enter or re-enter U.S. borders without legal authorization do so mostly to better their families’ economic circumstances. Escaping misery should not be a crime.
But under a program launched 10 years ago, it has been effectively criminalized. The entirely predictable result has been a clogging of courts, an overpacking of federal jails, a wasteful expense estimated at $7 billion since 2005 and an unjust severing of families that imposes even more misery as breadwinners are imprisoned — for wanting to earn their bread.
This is laid out in a report by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies. A recent Express-News article by Aaron Nelsen explained its findings. Nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted since 2005 in federal courts, 412,240 for improper entry (a misdemeanor) and 317,916 for re-entry (a felony). Read more about Operation Misery a better name?
Eleven years ago, people caught entering the country illegally wouldn't even be criminally prosecuted. Instead, their cases went through a civil removal process. However, in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security instituted Operation Streamline, which moved immigration into the federal criminal courts.
The result? A dumbfounding amount of taxpayer dollars have been spent prosecuting what used to be civil cases, has clogged federal court systems along the border and has not stopped people from trying to cross the border illegally into the United States, according to research published by the Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies in a new book called Indefensible found.
"Operation Streamline is known for the disturbing spectacle of mass courtroom proceedings in which up to 80 shackled migrants are arraigned, convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor improper entry charges," study author Bethany N. Carson writes.
In 2015, nearly half of all federal prosecutions were of people accused of improper entry or re-entry. Read more about The Feds Have Spent Billions Jailing People for Illegal Immigration
It was just over ten years ago that Operation Streamline debuted in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector – it’s since been expanded to all federal district courts along the border except for the southern border of California.
Operation Streamline is a controversial approach to dealing with unauthorized immigrants that channels the apprehended into a criminal court system that has been called an assembly line and a kangaroo court. Read more about Texas Matters: Operation Streamline And Problems With The U.S. Immigration System