From [HERE] FOR NEARLY TWO decades, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted with a handful of private companies to incarcerate thousands of non-U.S. citizens [non-whites] serving time for low-level federal offenses. Held in a dozen so-called “criminal alien requirement” prisons largely concentrated in remote, rural areas, the inmates in private custody are, for the most part, locked up for immigration offenses or drug violations.
CAR facilities have been the target of sustained criticism from advocacy organizations, which argue that their existence reflects a two-tiered federal prison system that outsources a select population of inmates to contractors with a track record of abuse and neglect. In August, it seemed that years of pressure had finally paid off, when the Justice Department announced it would begin phasing out private prisons.
Under the DOJ directive, the facilities — which “do not maintain the same level of safety and security” as their BOP-run counterparts, according to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates — would see their contracts reduced or allowed to expire without renewal and the inmates in their custody transferred.
Within hours of the announcement, the stocks of industry heavyweights Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group plummeted more than 35 percent. The Department of Homeland Security pledged to undertake a review of its own reliance on for-profit detention centers, and CCA and GEO shareholders filed class-action lawsuits accusing the companies of false or misleading statements about the safety of their facilities. In October, CCA embarked on a re-branding campaign, changing its name to CoreCivic.
While advocates applauded the DOJ memo as a long-overdue step in the right direction, the momentum was short-lived.
On November 9, as it became clear that Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in the race for the presidency, Fortune declared private prisons “the biggest (stock market) winner in Trump’s victory,” noting a 49 percent surge in CCA stock. In the weeks that followed, Trump would tap Jeff Sessions as his choice for attorney general. Not only could Sessions, a famously hardline figure on issues of immigration and criminal justice, undo the DOJ’s directive, but the plans promoted by Trump and his advisers threaten to drastically increase the number of people held by companies that have repeatedly demonstrated the conflict of profit motive when it comes to depriving people of physical liberty.
“I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons,” Trump said on the campaign trail earlier this year. “It seems to work a lot better.”
As the policies of the president-elect come into focus, it’s worth revisiting one of the incidents that prompted the DOJ’s resolve to cut ties with the industry in the first place — a deadly clash at a low-security, CCA-run facility on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi, that reflects how private prisons not only endanger inmates, but can also force low-wage workers from economically depressed communities into perilous circumstances.
In May 2012, inmates at Adams County Correctional Center staged a protest over a litany of grievances, including claims that men had died in custody as a result of medical negligence. Though CCA officials were forewarned that dire conditions had bred a sense of desperation in the prison, they failed to prevent the escalation that followed. [MORE]