White Judge's Spouse was Buying Private Prison Stock as She Filled Prisons with [non-white] Immigrants

Stockpiling the Prisons. From [HERE] The brutal 2008 Postville, Iowa, immigration raid that resulted in the arrests of nearly 400 immigrant workers remains one of the largest—and cruelest—raids in U.S. history. Women locked themselves in restrooms to hide while others ran into nearby cornfields to escape federal immigration agents. Families were broken and torn apart as frantic parents called friends to beg them to watch over their children. “They rounded us up toward the middle like a bunch of chickens,” recalled one worker, among the many transported to Waterloo for processing at a converted fairground.

There, hundreds of these undocumented immigrant workers were convicted to months in federal prison in a subsequent “judicial assembly line” that immigrant rights leader Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) called “a cattle auction, not a criminal prosecution in the United States of America.” It was a “cattle auction” overseen by chief judge of the Northern District of Iowa Linda R. Reade who, according to an investigation from Mother Jones, was sentencing immigrants as her husband was purchasing stock in private prison companies:

Yet amid the national attention, one fact didn’t make the news: Before and after the raid, Reade’s husband owned stock in two private prison companies, and he bought additional prison stock five days before the raid, according to Reade’s financial disclosure forms. Ethics experts say these investments were inappropriate and may have violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.

Reade’s husband bought between $30,000 and $100,000 worth of additional CCA and GEO Group stock five days before the Postville raid, according to her financial disclosure forms. When he sold his prison stocks about five months later, they were collectively worth between $65,000 and $150,000. He bought more CCA stock in November 2008 and more GEO Group stock in March 2009 and held them until February 2011. (A request for Reade’s financial disclosures from 2013 to the present has not yet been fulfilled.) Reade’s disclosure forms show that she and her husband did not buy any other stocks during the month of the raid.

“I don’t think a judge who handles criminal cases should ever be buying and selling stocks in private prisons,” says Richard Flamm, an ethics expert on judicial disqualification. “And of course, if her spouse does it, it’s functionally the same thing.”

According to emails and memos from Immigration and Customs Enforcement later obtained by the defense attorneys, Reade repeatedly met with immigration officials and federal prosecutors in the months before the bust. In March 2008, Reade attended a meeting with officials from the US Attorney’s Office where “parties discussed an overview of charging strategies,” according to ICE memoranda cited in court documents. She learned that about 700 arrests were anticipated and, in the words of an ICE memo, “indicated full support for the initiative.” (Reade later denied expressing personal support for the raid.)  

After these meetings, Reade and other court officials created “scripts” for the post-raid hearings that included model plea bargains for the as-yet uncharged defendants. “What I found most astonishing,” one defense attorney later wrote to a member of the House Judiciary Committee, “is that apparently Chief Judge Reade had already ratified these deals prior to one lawyer even talking to his or her client.” Camayd-Freixas says that although there were several judges at the hearings, “The entire proceedings were scripted” by Reade and court clerks.

“Today, dozens of people who were sentenced by Reade while her husband owned prison stock remain behind bars,” notes the Mother Jones investigation. “According to the US Sentencing Commission, the Northern District of Iowa, where Reade sits, sends a significantly higher proportion of defendants to prison, and with longer sentences, than the national average.” It’s an egregious example of prison profiteering at the expense of black and brown bodies, which is only expected to skyrocket as Donald Trump ramps up his mass deportation force. The New York Times earlier this year:

The worse the news for immigrants and their lawyers, the better it has been for the two companies. When a member of the Trump administration issues a memo or executive order, gives a speech or tweets about the crackdown on immigrants, shares of the two companies rise: Since the election, CoreCivic’s stock price has climbed 120 percent, and Geo’s has gained 80 percent.

Already in 2017, CoreCivic is up about 30 percent; Geo has gained about 20 percent. “We are strongly opposed to the Trump administration policies on immigration,” said Carl Takei, staff lawyer for the A.C.L.U.’s national prison project. “But those policies are great for these companies.” [MORE]