WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 11, 2014) — This morning, the ACLU and ACLU of Texas released Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private-Prison System.
Every year, the federal Bureau of Prisons subjects tens of thousands of immigrants to lengthy prison sentences simply for unlawfully crossing the border. These immigrants are hidden in a shadow system of privately run Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. Our multi-year investigation of the five CAR prisons in Texas uncovered evidence of abysmal conditions, families torn apart, and the excessive use of isolated confinement. For too long, CAR facilities have operated in the shadows, effectively free from public scrutiny. That ends now.
The second-class prisoners in CAR facilities are trapped at the intersection of three disturbing trends: the national mass incarceration crisis, prison privatization, and the criminalization of immigration. Read the report for the complete story and share our ACLU Action campaign urging the BOP to hit the brakes on this abuse-for-profit system. Briefly, here are some of the key takeaways from our report:
Abuse and Neglect
The federal Bureau of Prisons offers for-profit prison companies CAR contracts that incentivize overcrowding, harsh treatment, overuse of isolated confinement, and sub-standard care. At one prison in Texas, nearly 3,000 men are crammed into 200-foot-long Kevlar tents infested by vermin, subjected to overflowing toilets, and fed spoiled and inedible food. We heard reports of prisoners sent to isolation cells for “not speaking English in America,” for requesting new shoes, or for no discernible reason at all.
Bad Policies, Bad Incentives
Criminalizing immigration means making it a part of a criminal justice system already overburdened by a mass incarceration crisis and plagued by for-profit companies turning our tax dollars into revenue. It’s time to remove immigration from the criminal justice system entirely— the federal government should return immigration cases to civil immigration authorities.
Putting profit before people seems to touch every facet of life at CAR prisons. From alarming lapses in chronic care to terrifying denials of emergency care, we received many reports that medical treatment—if it was delivered at all—was delivered slowly, cheaply, and poorly. Some prisoners reported that a single doctor was responsible for overseeing health services for upwards of 2,000 prisoners.
Hidden in the Shadows
The truth about what happens behind the walls of these private prisons often stays hidden. Prisoners are warehoused in facilities located in remote corners of Texas. Few have relationships with attorneys who can advocate for them. And since these private prisons often evade the reach of state and federal open records laws, much of what happens behind these walls has gone unseen and unheard by the public.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Help us end this injustice.
For far too long, the Bureau of Prisons has turned a blind eye, shielding private prison operators from public scrutiny and accountability for their actions. It’s time for BOP to stop offering any new CAR contracts and mandate much stricter transparency and accountability at current facilities.
Learn more at aclu.org/CARabuse.