According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for-profit companies were responsible for housing approximately 7% of state prisoners and 18% of federal prisoners in 2015. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that in 2016, private prisons held nearly three-quarters of federal immigration detainees. That's a lot of money going into the corporations' pockets, and all that money facilitates systematic abuse. Private prisons are linked to numerous cases of violent and atrocious conditions.
Earlier this year, the ACLU and prisoners from East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) teamed up to file a class-action lawsuit against EMCF alleging the prison was operating in a continuing state of crisis, neglect, and abuse for years, causing extreme and preventable suffering for thousands of prisoners in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. For at least a decade, the class action claimed...
- Prisoners had been subject to rampant violence and brutal attacks that staff allowed, including stabbings and rape
- Prisoners had experienced excessive use of force by staff; had received little or no medical care or mental health treatment, even during emergencies
- Prisoners had lived in filthy, dark cells without working lights or toilets; and had been locked down in solitary for months and often years
"For almost seven years, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has been on notice of the horrible conditions at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility and has failed to remedy them," said Erin Monju, a litigation associate at Covington & Burling LLP. "We look forward to trying this case and to giving the prisoners of East Mississippi Correctional Facility their day in court."
This kind of thing isn't confined to one state, it's happening all over the country, including in our Immigration Detention Centers. An investigation at the Adelanto Detention Center, which is owned by GEO Group and holds about 2,000 people, found that immigrants held at the jail are subjected to punitive, prison-like conditions that harm people with disabilities; the jail's mental health care and medical care system are inadequate, made worse by harsh and counter-therapeutic practices; the facility significantly underreported data on the number of suicide attempts which occurred there; and the jail fails generally to comply with disability anti-discrimination laws as well as with ICE's own detention standards regarding the treatment of people with disabilities.
The United States imprisons more people — both per capita and in absolute terms — than any other nation in the world, including Russia, China, and Iran. Those are pretty staggering statistics-- and it has become increasingly obvious that are imprisoning humans just for monetary gain. The government and these corporations are profiting off of human suffering, and that is just wrong.
President Richard Nixon started the "war on drugs" during his term back in the 1970s, and ever since, our criminal justice system has been moving backward instead of taking steps to be better, by adopting "tough on crime" laws such as mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which really just curb probation and parole eligibility, and require inmates to stay incarcerated long after they have been rehabilitated, just so money can be made off of them.
The USA needs to take a better approach the way we treat our inmates, and we should all be fighting for those who cant do it for themselves. If you'd like to learn more about how you can help the criminal justice reform movement, visit SLPC to get more information.