Prisons profit from Trump’s jin­go­ism

The Star Late Edition - - WORLD - TELESUR

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.

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