Two Broken Incarceration Systems

Posted on June 17, 2011


As I linked to a few days ago, nothing has so hastened the critical calamity that is our prison system than the for-profit subcontracting, revolving door process that manages it. Human Rights Watch now has a report confirming what many have long been saying: the subcontracting of incarceration invariably breeds human rights abuses, and those are only mitigated according to the level of legal oversight that they are subject to. Those accused of immigration violations, unable or prevented from producing documentation, and prevented from accessing many of our constitutional protections, obviously suffer most, such as this legal permanent resident caught up in the system, and transferred to a different state with no judicial process:

A legal permanent resident originally from the Dominican Republic, who had been living in Philadelphia but was transferred to Texas, said, “I had to call to try to get the police records myself. It took a lot of time. The judge got mad that I kept asking for more time. But eventually they arrived. I tried to put on the case myself [without an attorney]. I lost.”

The report makes it clear that much of the problem stems from an overburdened ICE detention system, which must subcontract to whatever state and local jail has room for its inmates:

With close to 400,000 immigrants in detention each year, space in detention centers, especially near cities where immigrants live, has not kept pace. As a result, ICE has built a detention system – relying on subcontracts with state jails and prisons – that cannot operate without transfers. In the 12 years analyzed in the report, ICE has carried out 2 million transfers involving 1 million immigrants. Between 2005 and 2009, the use of transfers more than doubled. And 57 percent of all detainee transfers moved people to and from subcontracted state or local criminal facilities, which transfer ICE detainees once again when they need the beds for state criminal inmates.

These subcontracts with state jails and prisons, are actually subc0ntracts with mega-jailer corporations such as CCA and GEO [the latter runs numerous prisons in Texas].  The problem is only exacerbated by a failing economy in which human warehousing has become one of only a few growth industries, putting blighted rural communities in the peculiar position of buying into the prison industrial complex  as the only means of ec0nomic survival.

As American capitalism suffers from its last gasps, we seem to be increasingly split into two interconnected groups excluded from the American dream: poor jailers and poor inmates, with only a few circumstances of difference between them.

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