Thursday, February 15, 2007

US: Privatized Prisons for Immigrants

This Alien Life: Privatized Prisons for Immigrants by Deepa Fernandes, Special to CorpWatch February 5th, 2007

The small town of Florence, Arizona, sits at an epicenter of a new boom in private prisons for immigrants. The one-lane highway from Tucson to this desert prison town runs through cacti, red rock, and occasional mountains. Then out of nowhere, a roadside sign breaks the spell: “State Prison: Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers.” Florence hosts Arizona’s state prison, two privately run prison complexes, and one Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration jail. Florence “has a prison economy and a prison consciousness,” says Victoria López, an attorney who runs the town’s only pro bono legal center that helps immigrant detainees fight their cases.

“Florence is another world. Here most locals are people whose families have for generations worked in the prison system. Life revolves around the prisons.”As the government invokes national security to sweep up and jail an unprecedented number of immigrants, the private-prison industry is booming. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on New York, immigrants have become the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the U.S. today. In fiscal year 2005, more than 350,000 immigrants went through the courts. "A growing share of them committed no crimes while in the United States - 53 percent this year, up from 37 percent in 2001 - even though Bush administration officials repeatedly have said their priority is deporting criminals," the Denver Post reported.

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