When Angelica Moreno’s brother died of cancer inside a private prison in Mississippi, she vowed to fight so that he’d be the last to suffer such a fate. “I want to fight for every other person inside that jail,” she told me in July, weeks after her brother died. On Wednesday, Moreno joined a group of human rights and criminal justice advocates and a member of Congress for a briefing on Capitol Hill to halt the expansion of private federal prisons like the one that Moreno says killed her brother. “No other family should have to go through this.”
The federal government is poised to expand a little known part of the American incarceration system—privately operated facilities that hold immigrants convicted of crimes. Many of the inmates are charged criminally for what’s called “illegal reentry” when they’re picked up by Border Patrol trying to return to the country after a previous deportation. The facilities are among the only ones that the Bureau of Prisons has privatized and their expansion promises more profits for companies, like the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Adams County Correctional Center where Moreno’s brother was held.
It’s “quite a racket going on [for] these for profit prisons,” said Rep. Jared Polis, who sponsored the briefing. “It’s not a particularly good deal for taxpayers.”
There are now more than 24,000 inmates in 13 federal prisons for immigrants charged with crimes. Advocates including the ACLU of Texas, Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies gathered for the briefing on Thursday because the federal Bureau of Prisons in July issued a call for proposals for a 14th privately-managed facility to house 1,000 “low security, adult male inmates, that are primarily criminal aliens…”
The groups released a set of reports on abuses in the prisons and profits raked in by the private companies that manage the facilities. Together, they called on Congress to reject a $25,865,000 appropriation for 1,000 new prison beds for non-citizens proposed in the 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.
The incarceration policies are responsible for a rapid growth of the Latino federal inmate population. “These polices have led to the point where about half of federal prisoners are now Latino,” said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, who authored “Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences,” a report released on Wednesday. It documents the growth of the Streamline program, a federal initiative that pushes migrants crossing the border into criminal proceedings. As a result of the program, there has been a rapid growth in recent years of the number of immigrants prosecuted for “illegal reentry.” According to data released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, reentry “was the most commonly recorded lead charge brought by federal prosecutors during the first half of FY 2011.”
“We are clogging the justice system with this astounding increase in unnecessary prosecutions of people who merely sought to reunite with their families,” said Libal.
The prosecutions are a relatively new phenomena. Before the program and similar prosecutorial directives began, migrants apprehended crossing the border without papers were quickly deported, treated through the civil immigration system. Now, the federal government prosecutes unauthorized entrants criminally and locks them up for months and sometimes years in federal prisons before they’re eventually removed from the country. Since Streamline began in 2005, the federal government has spent $5.5 billion incarcerating undocumented immigrants, according to the Grassroots Leadership report. That money is funneled into private profits.
ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Advocates Want Halt to Expansion Of Private Prisons For Non-Citizens – COLORLINES.