Prisons profit from Trump’s jingoism
PRISONS are already filled to the brim with immigrant detainees, and critics warn that US President Donald Trump’s policies are likely to exacerbate already squalid conditions.
Trump has begun to follow through on his promise to crack down on immigration and roll out harsh border securitisation. While undocumented immigrants will face the gravest repercussions, private prisons, on the other hand, stand to be the biggest beneficiaries.
In just two weeks since Trump signed an executive order calling for the expansion of immigrant detention facilities at or near the border with Mexico, stocks for pri- vate prison companies have surged.
While the Obama administration implemented the most heavy-handed measures against immigrants compared to any other president – actions that earned him the moniker “deporter-in-chief ” – Trump is expected to substantially ramp up the mass immigrant detention system Obama put in place.
Carl Takei, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Unions National Prison Project, told the LA Times that there is likely to be “an enormous boon for the private prison industry”.
“The immigration system already lacks rigorous oversight and transparency,” he explained.
Private prison companies already provide a much lower cost to keep inmates, compared to federally run Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. That profit motive is at the expense of decent conditions in these centres.
A prime example is the Willacy County Correctional Centre, in Willacy County, Texas. Conditions in the prison were so bad that detainees engaged in a mass uprising, cutting and burning holes in their tents, wielding pipes and brooms and taking control of the prison for nearly two days. After the incident, the Bureau of Prisons shut down the facility in 2015 and transferred all the inmates to other federal prisons.
“The level of human suffering was just unbelievable,” Kathleen Baldoni, a former Willacy nurse, told a congressional briefing in 2009.
In addition, a 2010 human rights report stated that for every 1 358 inmates, there was only one physician on staff. The next year, a documentary investigated more than a dozen allegations of sexual abuse by Willacy guards.
With Trump and his anti-immigration policies in the White House, heavy-handed immigration enforcement is likely to continue to rely on private prisons with just as squalid conditions. And the private corporations are already salivating over the prospect.
The largest private prison operator in the US, Core Civic, has said it can provide the extra detention facilities needed to enforce Trump’s orders on immigration. The corporation’s stocks had slumped last year under Obama but bounced back with a 43% jump the day after Trump’s election.
Stewart Detention Centre, a privately run immigration detention facility in Lumpkin, Georgia. The US has the world’s largest prison population, and some prisoners are held by private companies. Proponents of the practice believe the state saves money, but not everyone agrees.