“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

Private prison companies continue to expand under Trump

The private prison business is booming under President Trump, reports the Houston Chronicle.

 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In the first three months of Trump's presidency, over 113,000 immigrants were locked up across the country in 180 different facilities. The Houston Chronicle says this is a 10 percent increase from the same time period in 2016. These increases mean big business for CoreCivic and GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies in the U.S.

 

The increase in business revenue comes from the number of individuals detained, and also from the length of time they are detained. In most cases, private prison companies are paid on a per diem rate per prisoner, meaning the longer they are detained the more money private prisons companies make.

 

This will have a large impact in Texas. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works with at least 25 facilities in the state, which hold about one third of the nation's ICE prisoners. Texas already has more privately run prisons than any other state, and is expecting to see that number grow. ICE already awarded a contract to GEO Group to construct and operate a new $100 million immigrant detention center in Conroe, Texas. Residents of Conroe are unhappy with the contract, and have been protesting what will become the largest immigrant detention center once it is constructed.

 

As shown by the residents of Conroe, private prisons are not welcome in our communities and should not be built or used. When will the government listen to the voices of the people?

Settlement reached with ICE over medical evaluations

A settlement has been reached between immigration officials and pro bono attorneys regarding medical evaluations at the Dilley family detention center, Texas, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit, filed in June, was from the Dilley Pro Bono Project, which works to provide legal services to women and children detained in Dilley, Texas. The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant was barred from visiting detainees at the detention center. ICE barred the legal assistant after they set up a telephonic medical evaluation for one of their clients. ICE policy states that medical evaluations must be approved at least 24 hours before the evaluation.

 

The settlement requires ICE to more quickly make decisions in regards to allowing medical evaluations, and limits when ICE can deny medical providers access to the detention center in Dilley, as well as the other family detention center in Karnes County, Texas.

 

This is not the first time ICE has limited attorney access to women and children detained in Dilley. Attorneys were denied access in 2015 after they lodged a series of complaints over due process violations. It is also vital that medical providers are given full access to the centers, since ICE has denied care to a young girl with cancer locked up at a family detention center in the past.  

Private prison guard caught sleeping on the job

A private prison guard was photographed sleeping while guarding an inmate in a Texas hospital, reports KRGV 5 news.

 

The unnamed guard worked at the Willacy County State Jail, which is operated by the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America). The guard was watching over a prisoner on August 1 at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. CoreCivic launched an investigation into the incident following the picture, and had this to say:

 

"We can confirm that the photograph is of a CoreCivic/Willacy County State Jail correctional officer and this is certainly a behavior we do not condone. Due to the serious nature of his behavior and numerous policy violations, the employee has been terminated from his position with the company effective immediately.”

 

Unfortunately, this is not the first issue around the Willacy County Jail. In 2015, an uprising by prisoners due to inadequate medical care caused fires that led to the closing of the facility. Then, in November of 2016, two former guards were charged with bribery. Both guards were found guilty and were sentenced to jail time.

 

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Dozens are transferred to a private prison referred to as "Hell"

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is transferring dozens of women to a private prison in Texas, reports Buzzfeed News.

 

A spokesperson with DHS confirmed that the department had begun transferring women from a facility operated by CoreCivic in New Mexico. That facility is closing due to a consistently low number of prisoners. The women will be transferred to the West Texas Detention Facility, located in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Human rights activists said that the transfers began without DHS notifying the attorneys who represent the women being transferred.

 

The prison has been operated by numerous private companies since 2015, including Emerald Correctional Management and LaSalle Corrections. Last year the U.S. Marshals began to monitor conditions at the prison following prisoners’ complaints of inhumane treatment.  

 

In May, Martín Méndez Pineda, a Mexican journalist, was detained in the Sierra Blanca facility after seeking asylum in the U.S. Pineda decided to "self-deport" instead of staying at the facility. Pineda wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he made numerous complaints against the facility, and aptly described it as “Hell.”

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