“These contracts are very lucrative,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin-based justice advocacy nonprofit Grassroots Leadership. “A reduction in the number of prisoners could be a huge threat to the private prison corporations’ bottom line.” [node:read-more:link]
A watchdog group is suing the agency charged with protecting the state’s most vulnerable Texans, alleging the department fast-tracked a policy change that might help the federal government convince a federal judge to reverse her order shutting down two immigration detention centers in Texas.
The lawsuit by Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit group opposed to for-profit prisons, filed in a Travis County state district court, claims that by adopting an emergency rule in September, the Texas Department of Family Protective Services can issue temporary licenses to privately run detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley without publicly detailing how it will ensure the safety and well-being of the immigrants. [node:read-more:link]
Immigration officials have started shifting longtime detainees from family holding centers in South Texas to one in Pennsylvania, part of what activists say is a scramble before Friday’s deadline to comply with a judge’s ruling governing the treatment of immigrant children in custody. [node:read-more:link]
filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Family Services, challenging its institution of the emergency rule without a full public-review process. Although allowing public comments might not have swayed the authorities, says Cristina Parker, the group’s director of immigration programs via email, “we certainly hope public outcry would have made a difference in their decision.”The civil-rights group Grassroots Leadership
The detained families are an even more muted part of the public outcry, walled off from the outside world, largely lacking any legal representation. But a group of mothers who were detained at Karnes for 11 months explained in an August letter to the president exactly what kinds of conditions their children required:
This nation for us is our refuge and protection. We do not ask more than that and we urge you to end all detention. We must forge in our children healthy minds that are free from violence without having them go through the nightmare of being locked up for months.
Roughly 23,000 immigrants are held each night in private prisons that are contracted out to corporations by the Bureau of Prisons. An estimated 62% of all immigration detention beds in the U.S. are operated by for-profit prison corporations, up from 49% in 2009, according to a report released earlier this year by Grassroots Leadership, a group whose mission it is to end for-profit incarceration. [node:read-more:link]
The United States is experiencing a major human tragedy. We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including Communist China, an authoritarian country four times our size. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world's population, yet we incarcerate about a quarter of its prisoners -- some 2.2 million people.
There are many ways that we must go forward to address this tragedy. One of them is to end the existence of the private for-profit prison industry which now makes millions from the incarceration of Americans. These private prisons interfere with the administration of justice. And they're driving inmate populations skyward by corrupting the political process.
No one, in my view, should be allowed to profit from putting more people behind bars -- whether they're inmates in jail or immigrants held in detention centers. In fact, I believe that private prisons shouldn't be allowed to exist at all, which is why I've introduced legislation to eliminate them.
For-profit prisons are influencing prison policy ...
... and immigration policy.
A report from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs outlines some of the ways in which private prison corporations have tried to influence immigration policy and increase incarceration rates, apparently with great success.
Grassroots Leadership found that, "contrary to private prison corporation claims that they do not lobby on issues related to immigration policy, between 2008 and 2014, CCA spent $10,560,000 in quarters where they lobbied on issues related to immigrant detention and immigration reform." [node:read-more:link]
Last Thursday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report admonishing government officials over the treatment of immigrants held at private prisons that contract with federal immigration authorities. Detailed in the report were a litany of alleged abuses at those detention centers, many of which are in Texas, from denying immigrants proper medical care to retaliation from prison staff and possible constitutional rights violations.
Yet on that very same day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new multimillion-dollar contract with one of the companies accused of holding immigrants in “inhumane” conditions that are “inconsistent with American values.” Advocates and immigration attorneys say they fear the new contract, for a pilot program to test a probation-like system for immigrant families released from lockup, only further expands the private prison industry's reach in the U.S. immigration system.
Perhaps the Geo contract, while troubling to advocates, shouldn't be entirely unexpected. Federal immigration officials have before ignored calls for ICE to wean itself off private prison companies. For instance, this 2009 report, commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security and written by a former director of the federal Office of Detention Policy and Planning, concluded that immigrant detainees — many of whom have never committed a crime (immigration violations are civil, not criminal, cases) — shouldn't be treated like criminals and that ICE, not private prison companies, should operate its own detention centers to safeguard against abuses and ensure greater oversight.
Yet six years later, private prison corporations now house nearly half of the nation's immigrant detainees.
"It speaks to the power of this industry," says Bob Libal with the Austin-based civil rights group Grassroots Leadership. "Now, ICE is just giving these companies another way to profit off immigrants." [node:read-more:link]
Construction on private prison-operated facilities has grown nationwide, especially in Texas. At 39 percent, Texas has the highest concentration of privately run detention beds in the country, according to the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.
The two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, operate 72 percent of the private immigrant detention industry. Both companies reported surging profits in their quarterly earnings. That’s in part because many contracts include occupancy requirements mandating that state or local governments must keep facilities anywhere between 80 and 100 percent full. On top of that, Congress has a so-called bed mandate, requiring that the Department of Homeland Security make available at least 34,000 beds every night for immigrant detention. That figure has been adjusted to around 31,000 for the 2015 fiscal year. [node:read-more:link]
"A social worker formerly employed at a for-profit family immigrant detention center in Texas blew the whistle this week on the prison’s inhumane conditions—from solitary confinement to medical neglect—that she said amount to child abuse and torture.
The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the country that has faced numerous accusations of atrocities and civil rights violations. It is also the site of recent—and repeated—hunger strikes led by mothers incarcerated with their children, in protest of their conditions, detentions, and in many cases, their looming deportations.
Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, toldCommon Dreams that there are signs that the tide may be finally turning against these 'wrong, immoral, and traumatizing' prisons." [node:read-more:link]