for-profit private prisons

Feb 24, 2017
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Rewire

Sessions: Contract With Private Prison Companies That Gave to Trump Campaign

The Department of Justice (DOJ) last year announced the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would no longer contract with private prison corporations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday instructed the Bureau to once again rely on these companies, which contributed large sums to President Trump’s 2016 campaign and his inauguration.

The DOJ in August cited private prisons’ failure to maintain adequate levels of safety and security as a primary reason to no longer contract with these companies. Privately run prison facilities have more incidents of violence than their public counterparts, according to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Private corrections facilities experience 65 percent more prisoner-to-prisoner assaults and 49 percent more assaults on staff than public facilities.

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As Austin-based immigrant rights organization Grassroots Leadership noted in a statement about Sessions’ announcement, most privately-operated prisons within the BOP are Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. These prisons hold noncitizens, most of whom have been criminally prosecuted for crossing the border.

“Today’s announcement likely marks a recommitment to the use of segregated federal prisons for non-citizens. CAR facilities have been racked with scandals and prison uprisings for years, including at theinfamous Tent City detention center in Willacy County, Texas,” Grassroots Leadership reportedCAR prisons were the focus of a recent investigation by the Nation about poor medical care resulting in in-custody deaths.

After the DOJ decision in August, advocates hoped that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would follow suit. That same month, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tasked the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) with evaluating “whether the immigration detention operations conducted by ICE should move in the same direction” as the DOJ. It was announced in December that ICE would continue contracting with private prison companies. The announcement did not come as a surprise to advocates, as Trump had just been elected, vowing to drastically expand the already unruly detention system.

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The Intercept reported that Geo Group was one of the first large, publicly-traded firms to make a hefty campaign contribution to Trump, giving $50,000 to a pro-Trump Super PAC and $45,000 to the Trump campaign via the “Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising committee between Trump and various state Republican Party groups.” CoreCivic donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

Grassroots Leadership’s Executive Director Bob Libal in a statement cited Sessions’ announcement as yet another act by the Trump administration that undermines criminal justice reforms and civil rights for incarcerated people.

“This administration appears to be more interested in lining the coffers of its friends at private prison corporations than promoting common sense policies that would reduce the incarcerated population and close troubled prisons,” Libal said. [node:read-more:link]

Dec 2, 2016
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Rewire

Department of Homeland Security Will Continue Contracting With Private Prison Companies

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) subcommittee has decided that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should continue contracting with private prison companies, which have come under fire for their incidents of preventable deaths and allegations that detainees are abused and mistreated.

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 DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson tasked the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) with creating a subcommittee to review ICE’s use of private prison companies like the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, whichrecently rebranded as CoreCivic. Opponents of private prison companies have pointed to allegations of human rights abuses, including incidents of sexual abuse, as a primary reason for the closure of facilities operated by the GEO Group and CoreCivic.

HSAC released the report on December 1 after conducting interviews with detention experts, executives from the major private detention companies, and representatives from national and local immigration advocacy groups, according to the report. Members of the subcommittee also visited two ICE detention facilities, one owned and operated by ICE and the other owned and operated by a private for-profit prison company.

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A fear among advocates—including Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based immigrant rights’ organization Grassroots Leadership—is that ICE will not be held accountable for the growing number of deaths at for-profit prisons. In Raquel Calderon de Hildago’s case, she was being held at CoreCivic-run Eloy Detention Center, which is considered by migrants as one of the worst places to be detained, when she had a series of seizures. She was transferred by paramedics to a nearby hospital, where she died on November 27 at the age of 36. As the Arizona Republic reported, “At the time of her death, she was awaiting deportation to Guatemala, ICE officials said. ICE said database checks indicate she had no criminal history in the U.S.”

Libal told Rewire in a phone interview that he was “heartened” by HSAC rejecting the report’s core recommendation at the hearing this week.

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Libal said that while it’s “somewhat heartening” that the committee dissented, it’s important to get to the heart of the “real issue”: The reason ICE can’t extract itself from contracts with companies like CoreCivic and GEO is because there are too many people in detention—and more expected in the coming months. Any plans for mass deportation, as the president-elect has proposed, require an immediate increase in detention, as migrants awaiting their deportations are placed into detention centers for weeks and sometimes even years. This is an issue that rests squarely on the shoulders of both ICE and the Obama administration, Libal said.

“My hope, and I think a hope of a lot of advocates, was that the report would recommend that ICE reduce the number of people detained, but the report made no such recommendation,” the executive director said.

Moving forward, there are a lot of unknowns about the detention system and how it will continue to take shape. This week, the U.S. government argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that certain migrants in detention shouldn’t qualify for bond hearings after being detained for at least six months. The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy organizations are pushing back against these policies, arguing that all migrants in detention deserve legal protections and due process. Libal said it is this kind of pushback that will be needed more than ever as we enter a new administration intent on further criminalizing and targeting migrants for prolonged detention and deportation.

“We are preparing for what could be one of the darkest times in our nation’s history,” Libal said. “We are handing over the keys to a human rights violation machine to Donald Trump’s immigration force—and that is the fault of this administration. The level of detention dictated why [the subcommittee] felt so beholden to private prison interests. If we had a quarter of people in immigration detention that we do, this would be a much easier problem to solve. And the fact that ICE continues to promote reliance on detention over release from detention or community-supported alternatives is the other reason we have this huge problem.” [node:read-more:link]

Nov 27, 2016
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Quartz

The US government is already quietly backing out of its promise to phase out private prisons

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Separately, the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has activists worried that the steps taken by the Obama administration to reduce the population of inmates in private prisons will be quickly rolled back. Trump has said outright that he supports prison privatization, and his plans for cracking down on illegal immigration would be a boon for prison operators: the stock prices of CCA and the Geo Group soared following his election

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“We are actually anticipating that the DOJ decision be quite possibly overturned. Either formally or they would be renewals or re-granting of the full contracts,” said Bethany Carson at Grassroots Leadership, a prison advocacy organization.

What has Carson and her group particularly worried is the president-elect’s promise to introduce mandatory minimums for illegal re-entry convictions after a previous deportation. Illegal entry and re-entry convictions already make up nearly half of federal prosecutions. The convicts are mostly held in thirteen so-called “Criminal Alien Requirement” (CAR) prisons, run by private companies, largely CoreCivic and GEO. Both facilities with which the BOP extended its contracts are CAR prisons.

Carson said that mandatory minimums would send average sentences for re-entry “through the roof,” and would require expanding the private prisons the DOJ said it would close in August.

“Expanding this existing system that federally prosecutes immigrants just for crossing the border to reunite with their families or flee dangerous situations could be one way to quite literally manufacture the so-called criminals he wants to deport,” said Carson. [node:read-more:link]

Nov 23, 2016
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The Washington Times

Trump stance on illegal immigration may aid private prisons

President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally and his selection of tough-on-crime Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general could mean big money for the private prison industry.

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Immigration detention centers are particularly profitable for private prison companies because they command a higher rate for each inmate bed, he said.

Yet what’s good for investors isn’t good for the country, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a national nonprofit group that works to reduce incarceration and detention rates.

“”They’re handing the keys to a deportation machine over to the Trump administration,” Libal said. “And I think there’s no reason to believe that the Trump administration won’t drive that machine forward through human rights protections or due process protections people in the detention system.” [node:read-more:link]

Jun 22, 2014
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The Rag Blog

Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers

Grassroots Leadership says that Texas is “ground zero” with “more incarcerated people, immigration detention beds, and for-profit prisons than any other state.” That is why the national organization, founded in 1980 by activist and musician Si Kahn, moved its program operations to Austin in 2012.

I spoke with Executive Director Bob Libal about Grassroots Leadership and the group’s current organizing efforts in Travis County, Texas, and nationally. They have a solid track record of success. They helped shut down the notoriously bad Dawson State Jail, end the immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, and stop the expansion of the private prison industry. They also have an ambitious agenda for the future. [node:read-more:link]

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