The contemporary US prison system incarcerates people — largely Black, Native, Latinx, disabled, and working-class and poor folks — and hides them from society for years, decades, or lifetimes. This is true across the United States generally and in Massachusetts, specifically. These days, when discussing the case against incarceration and the prison system, there are a few different arguments one tends to hear: (1) the first is that incarceration is immoral and reprehensible in both its conditions and treatment of incarcerated people; (2) a second, appealing to economists and technocratic policymakers, argues that prisons are a drain on taxpayer dollars and the money wasted there would be better spent on social services and alternatives; (3) another argument that centers racialization is that the prison system is a direct continuation of chattel slavey, chain gangs, and Jim Crow forced labor; (4) a final common refrain is that degenerate investors in private prisons and detention centers, as well as other perpetrators of gross injustice live off of turning prison labor into private profit.
Several years ago, Don Cohen, a former central labor council staffer from San Diego, appeared on a panel discussing the privatization threats faced by union members across the country. He and other speakers were addressing a conference of state, county, and municipal workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a group which did not include any federal employees. When Cohen described propaganda campaigns that proponents of privatization conduct to pave the way for out-sourcing local government or state university jobs, audience members immediately recognized that kind of employer behavior and its adverse impact on them. However, when another speaker—a campaigner against privatization of services for veterans--did some quick polling on what CWA activists had heard or read about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), their attitude toward that federal agency was largely negative.
President Joe Biden, by executive order, directed the Department of Justice to end its private prison use. It's a step in the right direction and a symbolic moment for this administration to say they are going to take criminal justice reform seriously. While this step decouples the federal government's relationship with private prisons, let's remember that such institutions hold just about 9% of the federal prison population — a little more than 14,000 people. Profit from incarcerated people doesn't meet the moral standards of justice. However, private prisons aren't even where the biggest profits exist. Private companies continue to profit off the labor of inmates in the public prison system, or, the "prison industrial complex." President Biden must also dismantle this repugnant practice. These corporations have monetized crime and punishment with the government's help.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order that will phase out the Department of Justice’s use of private prisons. The action is part of the administration’s effort to address racial inequity in the country and make good on Biden’s campaign promises to Black Americans — who were integral to securing his presidential win. The order directs the Justice Department to decline to renew contracts with privately-operated, for-profit prisons. This effort began under the Obama administration and was championed by then-DeputyAttorney General Sally Yates. The policy was quickly axed by the Trump administration in 2017.
New documents shed light on what activists are calling “a dark pattern of abuse” at a privately-run, for-profit prison in Virginia used by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Obtained by the civil rights group the Advancement Project under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents describe a long pattern of abuse, neglect and mismanagement of detainees at Immigration Centers of America (ICA) Farmville — a facility where almost everyone has coronavirus. In 2015, for instance, one detainee was pepper sprayed in the face while in full restraints.
Private prison company CoreCivic and communications company Securus Technologies agreed on Friday to pay $3.7 million to settle federal claims that they illegally recorded attorney-client conversations in a private pre-trial detention facility and shared those recordings with law enforcement and others. In 2016, a federal court in Missouri found that detention facilities including CoreCivic’s Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas had installed devices that could record communications between attorneys and detained clients, Law360 reported.
A private prison in Arizona recently sued the state for having a lack of prisoners. For the sake of saving over $16 million in back pay, the state settled by paying the private prison $3 million. Arizona essentially payed a company $3 million because not enough people are committing crimes. To be fair, it’s a bit more complex than that. In July, 2010 three violent inmates escaped from an Arizona private prison, which prompted officials to stop sending new inmates to the facility. I say good job to the officials for demanding better performance from Management & Training Corp., the company that runs the prison. Unfortunately, a line in the company’s contract with the state guarantees that the prison is at least 97% full at all times. They sued on grounds that the breach of contract caused a dramatic loss in revenue.
As storm clouds gathered over Boca Raton Monday afternoon, so too did two dozen activists, protesters and organizers at the newly opened headquarters of private prison company Geo Group. Representing organizations including Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs and Never Again Action, an organization that rallies mostly Jewish activists around immigrants’ rights at detention centers and other locations around the country. They gathered at the location almost exactly one year ago, when construction of the company’s new building was in its early stages. This year, they returned on the anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia protests, where a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens, and one day after Tisha B’Av, a holiday that memorializes temple destructions and mass killings of Jews throughout history.
Jewish Communities are holding "Close The Camps" actions across the country to protest the detention of migrants in the United States, the current immigration policies and mistreatment of migrants seeking asylum. On July 30, Never Again movement activists blockaded the Minnesota Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in St. Paul for over three hours. Twenty seven were arrested. On August 2, Jewish Activists marched and rallied in Portland Maine. On August 5, Jewish activists protested at the GEO Group office in Los Angeles. The GEO Group is one of the private corporations that profits by running migrant detention centers. More protests are planned in the coming weeks.
Resistance To Private Prison Industry Mounts Amid Debate Over Trump’s Immigration Detention Policies
Controversy over immigration policy is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the private prison industry, which runs detention facilities that house tens of thousands of immigrants. The private prison industry is under renewed scrutiny, and things are not going well for it. Prison companies were already under fire, accused of putting profits above the well-being of incarcerated individuals and staff at the dozens of federal and state prisons and local jails they run around the country.
The Trump administration’s decision to vastly increase the number of immigrants held in prisons has proven controversial. It’s also big business. The vast majority of people jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are held in private facilities. The two companies that manage over half of the private prison contracts in the U.S., CoreCivic and GEO Group, earned more than $4 billion in 2017. Both have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions, ostensibly to ensure that Washington continues to favor the $2 billion detention system.
What’s the best way to push profit-seeking corporations out of the public sphere? Don’t let them take over in the first place. Residents of Lancaster County, Penn. were thrilled to learn this lesson with their recent victory against Geo Group, a giant of the private prison industry. Geo Group has gained notoriety for its shady practices, with a rap sheet as varied as the so-called services it provides. Geo has turned into a household name in recent weeks for profiting off the youth and family detention centers that have become hallmarks of President Donald Trump’s inhumane immigration policies. But the company’s heinous practices predate Trump — though their highly suspect lobbying relationship with the current administration is well-documented.
By Brad Poling for Occupy - Seventy-five miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas, in the expanse of desert between the U.S./Mexico border and nestled between oil boomtowns of yesteryear, is Dilley, the epicenter of a new battle over immigrants' rights. The remote town of 4,000 people has enjoyed a hot local economy thanks to its most controversial feature: its private prison. Dilley houses the nation’s largest family detention center, a 50-acre complex that holds 2,400 detainees every night. The center has become a symbol of the resurgent private prison industry and a reminder of why the Justice Department abandoned these facilities in the first place. The private prison industry, which briefly went into free fall after President Obama's Justice Department announced the government would end its use of private prisons in August 2016, has found new allies in President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and is making fast dividends on the new deal. Giants like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) have received billions in taxpayer dollars for renewed government contracts, and have leveraged their private status to closely guard the details of each deal.
By Staff of CCRJustice - October 10, 2017, New York, NY – Today, the Supreme Court denied a petition by private prison corporations seeking to block the release of government documents about their immigration detention practices. In a case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Detention Watch Network (DWN), under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal district court ruled in July 2016, that the government must release details of its contracts with private prison corporations. The government chose not to appeal; instead, the country’s two largest private prison corporations, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), recently rebranded as “CoreCivic,” intervened to appeal the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed their petition in February. GEO then petitioned the Supreme Court for a full review of the case, asking for the right to prevent the government from releasing information under the FOIA. The Supreme Court’s decision lets stand the February ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the private contractors’ unusual attempt to fight for government secrecy when the government itself had acceded to the court’s ruling.
By Mike Ludwig for Truthout. For three years now, incarcerated immigrants have staged hunger strikes and work stoppages to protest conditions at the Northwest Detention Center, an immigration jail in Tacoma, Washington, run by a private prison company that pays detainees as little as $1 a day to work in the jail. "This week folks were offered chips or a soup for several nights of waxing the floors, so not even $1 [per] day," one person incarcerated in the jail recently reported to NWDC Resistance, an immigrant-led group fighting to end the deportation and detention of immigrants.