Sunday, March 2, 2008

Only in USA: Toddler Prison for fun and profit

Preamble

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." - Words at the base of the Statue of Liberty welcoming newcomers to our land.

Watch

Source of video: BrasscheckTV.




The Beginning: genesis of an American Gulag

Taylor daily press, article, dateline December 2005.

The T. Don Hutto prison facility in Taylor won't be closing anytime soon.

The private prison, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has finalized a contract with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to hold illegal immigrants.

According to Kim Porter, a CCA spokesman, the contract calls for holding up to 600 prisoners, which means a slight modification of the facility to achieve the additional beds needed.

“There will be a substantial addition to staff,” Porter said. “The number of employees at the facility will increase from the 40 people we presently have to approximately 200.”

According to Louise Gilchrist, director of marketing for CCA, the addition of staff at the Taylor facility will be on a “ramp-up” basis as new inmates are added.

“We won't be hiring all the new employees at once,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist said workers previously employed at the T. Don Hutto prison and in other CCA facilities will be evaluated based on their qualifications.

“Obviously, if they have corrections job experience and have experience with us, they will be high on our list,” Gilchrist said. “As in the past, we'll also be using the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to receive applications.”


This prison is exclusively for refugees.
There are no criminals inside its walls - the criminals are in normal American prisons. This is for people caught at the border - no matter the age, sex, or health condition of a person. So mothers, small children, newborns - all raised in the prison.

Let me repeat this as many people will try to obfuscate the issue and claim that there are criminals in this prison - this is not true.

Again... THERE ARE NO CRIMINALS IN THIS PRISON - ONLY REFUGEES. I cannot stress this point enough.

Analysis.
There were 10 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2006, according to the UN. My definition of a refugee divides this group into two parts:
political refugees and economic refugees.

A political refugee is fleeing persecution in his own country, because of his religion, political beliefs, skin color, or any other myriad of factors.

An economic refugee is fleeing his country to another one, hoping for a better life for himself and his family.

The United States was built on both kinds of refugees - the economic and political - hence the quote at the base of Lady Liberty statue was apt.

No more.
Now, the United States has decided to jail the refugees, the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to be free.

Welcome to T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, 40 miles north of Austin, Texas. Billed as a "Residential Center", it is, in fact a prison.

What happened was the anti-immigration rhetoric was increased by the republican party, and so tougher laws were enacted to punish incoming illegal immigrants, because catching them at the border (done by the hard working US Border Guard police force) and releasing them was not a deterrent - the would be immigrants would try again.

So, tough new laws were considered - and it was decided to jail illegal immigrants instead of just catching them at the border and turning them back.

I will consider the issue from two perspectives, so common on US "news" media pundit shows: liberal and conservative.

Liberal view: This is an outrage! The people at Hutto prison are not criminals - they are simply folks caught at the Mexico-America border. They are men, women, children, very small children, expectant mothers.

Why are they in prison at all? What are we, Stalin's Soviet Union?

Conservative view: I am all for being tough on the illegal immigrants, but this is wrong from the economic perspective. The average cost per prisoner for the taxpayer is $23,876 per year (source: USA Today). Of course catching them at the border and releasing them is much cheaper, because we already pay the US Border Guard to do that job. Whether we decide to jail the illegal immigrants or turn them at the border makes no difference to the Border Guard - they have to catch the illegals no matter what. And it's no deterrent for illegals - they will keep coming in because they are desperate enough to try coming into this country no matter what.

However, jailing them costs me, the taxpayer, extra money while catch and release back is less expensive. This makes no sense!

Oddly, this may be the one issue where conservatives and liberals agree.

However, this takes out of the equation the lobby system we have in this country.

The readers of this blog already know about the pro-Israel lobby, which is costing this country $3 billion a year in "aid" and horrible foreign policy decisions, as well as the Cuban exiles lobby, which exists to promote the Cuba economic embargo and in effect make the Cubans in Cuba suffer needless hardships. You probably can name other lobbies: the farming lobby, the gun lobby, and many, many others...

Add the prison lobby to the mix.
Yes, folks, America has a lobby that represents its prisons.
Because in America, prisons are a private business.
The more people in America are in prison, the happier the prison lobby is.

The Countess, quoting Washington Post article:
A powerful lobby has grown up around the prison system that will fight hard to protect the status quo.
(...)
With 2.2 million people engaged in catching criminals and putting and keeping them behind bars, "corrections" has become one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more people than the combined workforces of General Motors, Ford and Wal-Mart, the three biggest corporate employers in the country. Correctional officers have developed powerful labor unions. And most politicians, whether at the local, state or national level, remain acutely aware that allowing themselves to be portrayed as "soft on crime" is the quickest route to electoral defeat.

As a local example (Hutto is in Texas, so its very topical to post here), read up on the lobbyists who work for the prison industry in Texas at the texasprisonbidness.org.
The article linked includes a table with lobbyists names and how much these people make. Lets just say lobbying for the prison industry is not a bad living (if you are heartless scum, but that is a definition of a lobbyist).

My favorite quote from the article about Texas private prisons (this is unrelated to Hutto, just thought it would be interesting to include the good Senator's view of a prison lobbyist in action) is from Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston):
During the height of the Coke County scandal, Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston) excoriated the GEO Group for unleashing the lobby to convince legislators that the state had overreached in shutting down that facility. “Now enters GEO with their paid lobbyists attempting to put a good face on this,” Whitmire told the Dallas Morning News. “I’m saying the corporation should back off. They've run a very poor facility that probably violates the youths’ civil rights,” he said. “Kids were stepping in their own feces. The sheets were such that a cat or dog wouldn't sleep on them."

Ahhhhh, Texas.

Anyway, back to Hutto, Texas.

ACLU page on Hutto:
The settlement was the result of lawsuits brought earlier this year on behalf of 26 immigrant children detained with their parents at Hutto. The lawsuits contended that the conditions inside the detention center violate numerous provisions of Flores v. Meese, a 1997 court settlement that established minimum standards and conditions for the housing and release of all minors in federal immigration custody

Since the original lawsuits were filed, all 26 children represented by the ACLU have been released. The last six children were released days before the settlement was finalized and are now living with family members who are U.S. citizens and/or legal permanent residents while pursuing their asylum claims.

This next paragraph is important. Pay attention please:
Conditions at Hutto have gradually and significantly improved as a result of the groundbreaking litigation. Children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms and are allowed much more time outdoors. Educational programming has expanded and guards have been instructed not to discipline children by threatening to separate them from their parents.

Reread this please.
"Children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms" and "guards have been instructed not to discipline children by threatening to separate them from their parents".


Read it again.
Let it sink in.

Welcome to the Soviet Union.
Welcome to United States of America, Anno Domini 2008.

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2 comments:

slates said...

i watched the entire video, all 17 minutes, and immediately noticed the very careful and deliberate avoidance of the term "illegal" preceding "immigrant" by every person interviewed -- consistent throughout. convenient doublespeak.

while there's no excuse for sub-standard conditions and exploitative profiteering by the prison corporations, i see no problem with the system itself as an idea. the people in those facilities are, in fact, illegal immigrants. i'm sure the reason they switched to a prison rather than those happy-homes was because the people in them would just vanish like the ones who didn't get caught at the border.

last i checked, they're not being handed a bill after being released; no, we pay the bill for them. what's a better deal, being turned back to mexico at the border to their supposed "horrible refugee point of origin" or being housed and fed for free in a reasonable environment while waiting for their place in the legal immigration queue? i've seen college dorms that looked worse than what was shown in that video. that's not to say there aren't horrible places that should be investigated... i'm sure there are, and that should be addressed. obviously.

incidentally, there's nothing wrong with people working in privately run prisons... i guess it'd be better if they were all out of jobs and on welfare? it's actually kind of ironic that a lot of people who probably lost their jobs to outsourcing or illegal labor end up running the illegal immigrant prisons :) and they pay taxes!

bottom line... there's a problem when prison corporations purposely exploit / harm people for profit. obviously, i have compassion for the kids, etc. but there are limits to what can be sustained in terms of immigration. that's one issue... being confused with this one and used by the interest groups who made this material to promote their agenda. the whole thing WAS subtitled in spanish, you know. sorry, it goes both ways.

Dark-Star said...

You think these prisons are bad? Try spending some time in a Mexican or Cuban jail as a missionary friend of mine did. American-style imprisonment is heaven in comparison.

Also, people in these prisons are bringing it on their own heads. While their home countries are not shining examples of freedom and justice, every legitimate nation has a right to say whom it lets in and when. Take away that and you don't have a nation, you have a glorified tourist resort.