It's been bad enough in Arizona and other parts of the US. Now we find that other countries have turned prisons over to the "detention-industrial complex," the same companies operating prisons in the US. This is Blackwater behind bars, operating a for-profit, often careless and cruel business that depends to a great extent on the detention of immigrants. As we learned about Blackwater and other soldiers-for-sale, it's about profit. Only this time it's the prison business, a business that relies on state legislators' tightening of laws to provide "customers" -- detainees -- for these private companies.
... In Britain, the United States and Australia, governments of different stripes have increasingly looked to such companies to expand detention and show voters they are enforcing tougher immigration laws.
Some of the companies are huge — one is among the largest private employers in the world — and they say they are meeting demand faster and less expensively than the public sector could.
But the ballooning of privatized detention has been accompanied by scathing inspection reports, lawsuits and the documentation of widespread abuse and neglect, sometimes lethal. Human rights groups say detention has neither worked as a deterrent nor speeded deportation, as governments contend, and some worry about the creation of a “detention-industrial complex” with a momentum of its own. ...NYT
Over a year ago the connection between state legislators in the US and ALEC, was made embarrassingly clear. ALEC, a largely rightwing "non-profit," provides ready-made and often very profitable legislation from state to state. The privatization of our prison system is partnered with legislation giving states greater powers to seize suspect immigrants. The relationship between immigration policy and prison profiteering is pretty tight.
Over the past decade, the private-prison industry has increasingly shifted its attention to the burgeoning fields of undocumented and criminal alien detention. From January 2008 to April 2010, CCA [Corrections Corporation of America] spent $4.4 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Office of Budget Management, the Bureau of Prisons, and both houses of Congress. Of the 43 lobbying disclosure reports CCA filed during this period, only five do not expressly state intent to monitor or influence immigration reform policy or gain Homeland Security or ICE appropriations. ...In These Times
Always, the smell of money.
Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why the private-prison industry is eager to expand into immigrant detentions. According to ICE Public Affairs Officer Gillian Brigham, in fiscal year 2009, ICE detained 383,524 individuals, with an average daily prisoner population of 32,098 spread across the nation’s 270 immigrant detention centers. ...InTheseTimes
One of the companies, the New York Times reports today, has been tossed out of Australia for child-abuse but continues to be one of the major private prison administrators in the US.
By the middle of the past decade, ... refugee children had sewed their lips together during hunger strikes in camps like Woomera and Curtin, and government commissions discovered that Australian citizens and legal residents were being wrongly detained and deported... Naomi Leong, a shy 9-year-old, was born in the detention camp. For more than three years, at a cost of about $380,000, she and her mother were held behind its barbed wire. Psychiatrists said Naomi was growing up mute, banging her head against the walls while her mother, Virginia Leong, a Malaysian citizen accused of trying to use a false passport, sank into depression. ...NYT
When one private company gets into trouble, though, another private company is quickly contracted. The turnover can be swift and the companies often have plenty of other work elsewhere.
... Lost detention contracts are rare and easily replaced in this fast-growing business. Serco’s $10 billion portfolio includes many other businesses, from air traffic control and visa processing in the United States, to nuclear weapons maintenance, video surveillance and welfare-to-work programs in Britain, where it also operates several prisons and two “immigration removal centers.”
“If one area or territory slows down, we can move where the growth is,” Christopher Hyman, Serco’s chief executive, told investors last year, after reporting a 35 percent increase in profits. ...NYT
When a state, like Alabama, tightens its system for picking up alleged undocumented immigrants, we need to be aware that the law may be going where the money is. The Department of Justice tried to get Alabama's new law overturned, but without much success. It was upheld by a federal judge.
For the most part, Judge Blackburn, who was appointed by the elder President George Bush, disagreed with the Justice Department’s arguments, including those that had been successful in challenges to laws in Arizona and Georgia.
The judge upheld a section that requires state and local law enforcement officials to try to verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests, if “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally. ...NYT
Alabama, of course, has been having financial troubles...