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ACLU Calls for Shutting down Private Prisons in U.S.

ByGeorge Bao

Aug 18, 2016

By George Bao   Aug. 17, 2016

 LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Wednesday called for the U.S. Government to shut down private prisons in the country since private prisons “are so unsafe they are sometimes deadly.”

ACLU called its supporters to send a message to the U.S. Government that it is time to put a stop to the grave abuses of private prisons.

ACLU said private prisons cut costs by failing to hire proper medical staff, throwing new prisoners straight into solitary for lack of space, and delaying transferring prisoners in need of urgent care to hospitals.

“Private prisons are causing preventable prisoner deaths – from untreated cancer, untreated HIV, suicide, and heart attacks and seizures. Yet the government refuses to shut them down and continues to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into these prisons that are motivated by one thing: profit,” said ACLU.

A newly-released report from the U.S. Department of Justice details alarming abuse inside private prisons. Appalling medical neglect and inadequate oversight by the Federal Bureau of Prisons mean those in private prisons don’t have basic access to health and safety.

According to the report, most of the recent findings come from immigrant-only prisons. Non-U.S. citizens, most of whom are deemed low security risk, are held in “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons rife with reckless, unchecked abuse. The vast majority of the men in CAR prisons are serving sentences for non-violent drug offenses or simply for crossing the border.

The report shows significantly higher levels of violence in these prisons compared to bureau-run prisons. Inspected facilities used lockdowns nine times more than comparable public prisons. And in two out of three, all new prisoners were housed in solitary – a brutal form of punishment – simply because there weren’t enough beds.

The inspector general’s report is one of many exposés in recent years that reveal the terrible conditions of CAR prisons, said ACLU.

Private prisons have a long legacy of abuse, neglect, and corruption. Private prison entrepreneur Tom Beasley described his efforts in the early 1980s, saying, “You just sell [prisons] like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers. To make a quick buck, he hastily converted a Houston motel to detain immigrants.”

The call came at a time when reports said the Obama administration bypassed public bidding laws to seal a $1 billion deal with the largest prison company in the US, all to handle a surge of immigrants from Central America.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) inked a lucrative four-year contract to build a detention facility at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which would accommodate women and children seeking asylum in the US.

Private jails, prisons and detention centers have a long history in the U.S. As early as in 1852 San Quentin became the first for-profit prison in the U.S. (it is currently state-owned).

Wide-spread privatization of prisons took place during the 1980s. Prior to the 1980s, some aspects of prison management had been privatized (services), but overall management had still been held by federal and state authorities.

Reports said currently there are over 150 private jails, prisons and detention centers in the U.S.


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