Private prisons should not profit off of undocumented immigrants

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The U.S. government has been shifting its responsibility for locking up undocumented immigrants to profit-seeking prison companies. An unfortunate instance of this in play is Josue Vladimir Cortez Diaz, who fled from El Salvador after being persecuted and receiving a number of death threats.

Diaz was captured at the border and detained in a private jail operated by the GEO Group, formerly known as the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. He described how the private prison provided him and the other inmates with inedible food and poor health care. “The conditions in the detention center, they are bad right down to the food — they don’t care if someone is sick, if the food goes bad,” Diaz told the Times.

Diaz was released after he was given asylum, but since his release, he has been protesting the mistreatment of inmates in private prisons. Diaz stated that prison guards pepper-sprayed him when he protested. GEO spokesman Pablo E. Paez called his claim “baseless.”

Another example, Douglas Menjivar, a former detainee of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement private prison, said he was raped by other prisoners. Menjivar, a Salvadoran undocumented immigrant, was charged with deportation.

“GEO has consistently refuted the allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these baseless claims,” GEO said in its defense. “The volunteer work program at all immigration facilities as well as the minimum wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the Federal government under mandated performance-based national detention standards. Our facilities, including the Aurora, Colo. Facility, are highly rated and provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments pursuant to the Federal Government's national standards.”

ICE established five more detention centers recently, with the Trump administration demanding more private immigrant prisons. Coincidentally, GEO and CoreCivic — a company that manages prisons and detention centers — contributed $250,000 to President Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities.

Kevin Landy, director of the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning, said, “I don’t get the impression that the Trump administration has any interest in implementing new detention reforms.” ICE reportedly closed down Landy’s office for going against its regime and supporting undocumented immigrants.

In the 1980s, voters wanted strict measures against criminals. Nevertheless, none of them wanted to spend taxpayer money on prisons, so the government considered putting inmates in for-profit prisons. Some people claim that for-profit prisons are more effective and less costly.

The only question at hand was, as M. Wayne Huggins, the sheriff of Fairfax County, stated, “What next will we be privatizing? Will we have private police forces? Will we have private fire department? Will we have private armies?” As the demand for detention centers increases, more private companies benefit. Government zones are focused on spending less money and completely neglect the consequences following their actions.

This implies that they care more about taxpayers but less about the basic human rights of inmates. Private companies, such as CoreCivic and GEO, often advertise their companies by stating that they run their prisons at a lower cost. Government and people who hope to lock up criminals might have been blinded by the sugarcoated word “cheap.”

But what if we treated police forces, fire departments and armies the same way simply because it costs less? Locking up inmates in the private sector will always be a terrible idea.

-Stacy Kim

Journalism ‘20

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