Immigration Makes Prison Complicated

Immigration adds another complicated layer to the privatized prison system.  The article states, “Current U.S. legislation is read by some members of Congress to require that at least 34,000 immigrants be held in detention beds at all times at a cost of $2 billion annually”.

It is important to consider why legislation like this exists?  Who is benefiting by mandating that 34,000 beds must be filled with detained immigrants each year?  Quotas for population numbers for immigrants and even the larger prison population complicate the criminal justice system.  Different areas of the larger justice system, aware of the quotas, may act in ways that protect their job and obligations, even if this means unfairly putting people in the prison system.

It is not a far stretch to suggest that this legislation was prompted by the generous donations of Corrections Corp to keep their business alive and well, despite the ineffective outcomes for immigration reform the legislation was attempting to address.  In really simple words: this is not okay. Especially considering that the conditions in these immigrant detention centers are a “living nightmare” for the inmates. The article described, “they are dealing with maggots in food, improper medical care, sweltering temperatures, and in many cases no communication with staff due to no translators on site.”

Immigration creates complex issues for legislation, social justice initiatives, population development and more.  I personally believe that the US penal system is not the right place to house illegal immigrants, however if they are going to be forced into it, they at least deserve to be held to the same standard as legal citizen prisoners.  All prisoners deserve to be afforded with basic human rights.  We can debate about a standard of care that is sufficient, but the level of care is less important than the standard. Having a standard creates accountability and provides measurable data for further analysis.

While the role of the government in protecting basic social liberties has been historically debated, the federal government has some responsibility to oversee the lives of the people they place within the penal system.  As these obligations are contracted out to for-profit companies like Corrections Corp, the responsibility of the government blurs through the additional of complicated organizational layers.  The article talks about various resistance strategies to the cruel treatment at prison facilities.  Violence, coercion, threats, and isolation are all common tactics to repress prisoner resistance.

Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia


3 thoughts on “Immigration Makes Prison Complicated”

  1. Original article is not clear at all on this point…. about the 34,000.

    A quota, as you point out, is odd and perhaps disturbing.

    Another angle you can attack privatized prisons/detention centers on is their costs.

    The “usual” justification for privatization of government is you would have competition for contracts, lowering costs.

    Does this exist in prisons? Because in much contracting in military/security the costs are NOT lower. Maybe here too?

    Some hits on costs and prisons….


    “The results revealed that private prisons were no more cost-effective than public prisons, and that other institutional characteristics—such as the facility’s economy of scale, age, and security level—were the strongest predictors of a prison’s daily per diem cost.”


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