New Reports Highlight How Billions of Dollars in Contracts for Privatized Prisons are Fueling Explosive Growth in Numbers of Latinos in Prison

September 13, 2012

Civil, Human Rights Groups Call for Elimination of “Operation Streamline” and End to Lucrative Federal Prison Contracts Enriching Wall Street Companies at House Briefing

Washington, D.C. — At a Congressional briefing sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis today, civil and human rights groups called on Congress to reject the appropriation of $25,865,000 for 1,000 new private prison beds, proposed in the 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The briefing showcased new reports by Grassroots Leadership, Justice Strategies, the ACLU of Texas, and the Sentencing Project.

Collectively, the reports expose the waste and rights violations prevalent in for-profit “Criminal Alien Requirement” (CAR) prisons, which incarcerate immigrants primarily prosecuted for petty immigration violations through the highly controversial and abuse-ridden program, “Operation Streamline.” A recent CAR contract with the Bureau of Prisons for the Willacy County "Tent City" in Raymondville, Texas was valued at $532,318,724 over 10 years and was awarded to the Management Training Corporation (MTC).

Poor management, lack of medical care, prolonged lockdown and human rights violations plague CAR prisons and have led to prisoner uprisings, most recently at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) CAR prison in Natchez, Mississippi. Protests erupted there in May 2012, after the prison warden refused to address grievances raised by prisoners, including discriminatory treatment and beatings by guards. Numerous guards and prisoners were injured, and one guard was killed.

“CAR prisons benefit no one except the private prison companies like the MTC, CCA and the GEO Group which are raking in record profits at a time when budgets for public schools and libraries are being cut,” said Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies and author of "Privately Operated Federal Prisons for Immigrants: Expensive. Unsafe. Unnecessary," published today. “It is long past time for us to stop lining the pockets of multi-billion dollar prison companies, and eliminating these unnecessary private prison beds would be a concrete step in the right direction.”

The number of Latinos in federal prisons has reached an all-time high, and is the direct result of “Operation Streamline,” which rights advocates call, “Assembly-line justice.” “We are clogging the justice system with this astounding increase in unnecessary prosecutions of people who merely sought to reunite with their families. Just five of the nation’s 94 federal court districts now handle 41% of all federal cases,” noted Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership and co-author of “Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences,” published today. “The only thing “streamlined” here is the massive transfer of wealth from public budgets to the private prison industry and their lobbyists.”

More than 90 local and national faith, civil and human rights groups also signed on to a letter submitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees today demanding the elimination of “Operation Streamline” and an end to federal funding of private prisons. “Latinos are not commodities to be shipped off and sold to the highest bidder. We call on Members of Congress who care about Latinos in this country to oppose the warehousing of immigrants,” said Angélica Moreno, whose brother, Juan Villanueva, recently died after being imprisoned for nearly three years at a CAR prison in Mississippi which failed to provide him with adequate medical care for lung cancer. To read the letter, click here.

“Conditions in CAR facilities are intentionally separate, unequal, and wholly inhumane,” said Krystal Gómez, Policy and Advocacy Counsel for the ACLU of Texas and co-author of Second Class Prisoner, a forthcoming report documenting the results of nearly 100 interviews with CAR prisoners completed by the ACLU of Texas, an abstract of which was released today. “Prisoners reported conditions that violate both constitutional protections and human rights norms, such as refusal to diagnose or treat disfiguring and progressive tumors, denial of critical medication to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and epilepsy, and failure to identify and treat dangerous communicable diseases such as tuberculosis which pose significant risk to public health.”

See the report by Grassroots Leadership here, by Justice Strategies here and by the Sentencing Project here.