Feb 282010

An update on the dangerous Corrections Corporation of America

One of our concerns here at NoC has been prison conditions in Kentucky for inmates and immigrant detainees. We’ve been paying attention—and you should, too, because we’re sending prisoners to places where procedure and profit trump humane treatment.

Last June, NoC ran a piece on the death of Ana Romero. To be honest, by the time we wrote on Romero’s story it was old news, but questions and concerns regarding immigrant detention were still a very live issue—and they continue to be. A 44 year-old cleaning woman from El Salvador, Romero was arrested on Jan. 14, 2008. Police had come knocking on her door, looking for someone else, and took her into custody. More than seven months and several jails later, she pleaded guilty on Aug. 7, 2008 to using fake identification documents and was ready to be deported. She would return to her mother in El Salvador. On Aug. 21 she hanged herself in her jail cell. Romero’s name has been absent from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) list of people who have died while in the agency’s custody.

Again recently, NoC has had occasion to report on women suffering in prisons in Kentucky.

Last month, Gov. Beshear ordered the removal of some 400 female inmates from the Otter Creek Correctional Facility in Floyd County. The impetus was “widespread allegations of sexual misconduct” by guards at the institution, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America. This order came after Hawaii pulled 165 of its female inmates from the prison in July and after the Kentucky Department of Corrections had finished an investigation of 18 cases of alleged sexual misconduct by prison guards.

Part of the continuing privatization of U.S. prisons, Otter Creek is an all-female minimum/medium security facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) since 1998. CCA calls itself “the nation’s industry leader of privately-managed corrections solutions for federal, state and local government” and claims to have founded the private corrections industry.

And now the two stories have begun to connect, giving more proof of the dangers of ICE practices and CCA facilities.

On January 9, one day after the Herald-Leader reported that Gov. Beshear would pull Kentucky female inmates from Otter Creek, the New York Times continued its coverage on immigrant detainees. Near the end of the article, CCA is mentioned, this time in regard to one of its immigrant detention centers.

“In August, litigation by the civil liberties union prompted the Obama administration to disclose that more than one in 10 immigrant detention deaths had been overlooked and omitted from a list submitted to Congress last year.”

“Two of those deaths had occurred in Arizona, in 2004 and 2007, at the Eloy Detention Center, run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Eloy had nine known fatalities—more than any other immigration jail under contract to the federal government.”

Here’s the moral to the story for those who are paying attention: Stop detaining immigrants and disappearing them into detention centers. Stop believing private profits are the solution to our broken prison system.

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