Things That Matter

ICE Continues To Send Migrants To Private Prisons Where Cruelty Is The Norm

One of the services traditionally provided and operated by the State is security and correctional facilities. Traditional modern democracies are arranged in such a way that governments provide these services, and run them. However, neoliberal policies instituted during the 1980s, when people like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were in power, have translated into an increased privatization of these types of services. Basically, arresting and locking people up is a big and very profitable business. 

In the past few years ICE has captured hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and people looking to enter the United States as refugees.

Many regions of the world are literally on fire. Gang warfare has spread like an epidemic in Central America, Mexico is still fighting a seemingly endless war against the drug cartels, African migrants are trying to get to America after Europe has proven to be hostile territory, the Middle East continues to suffer from endless conflict… and the list goes on and on.

The United States Customs and Border Patrol has been increasingly tough during the Trump administration, and the number of detainees of all ages and genders is increasing. Enter private correctional facilities, with which ICE has struck deals. The number of arrested migrants is huge.

According to The Washington Post: “The number of migrants taken into custody along the southern U.S. border soared to nearly 1 million during the government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data released Tuesday.”

Enter LaSalle Corrections, which has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons: detainees have been committing suicide in their facilities, including a Cuban man named Roylan Hernandez-Diaz.

ICE has to take all these people somewhere, and it has chosen a company that is infamous for its alleged malpractices: LaSalle Corrections, which operates out of Louisiana. This company was founded in 1997 by a former nursing home owner who had experience in running facilities where people are kept under strict disciplinary control.

During the Trump administration eight contracts have been drawn with the service provider. This past month Roylan Hernandez-Diaz,  a 43-year-old Cuban man killed himself in his cell after the immigration court told him he needed to provide more information relating to the political attacks he would face if he returned to his homeland. 

Hernandez-Diaz was angry at his legal situation, but also at the conditions in the jail where he had been kept.

The Washington Post reported on October 21: “Hernandez-Diaz, the second detainee to die in ICE custody this month, has a backstory that points to several new realities in the immigration system: An influx of Cubans, who are stuck in detention due to policy changes during the Obama administration. An increasing reliance by ICE on rural jails in Louisiana, where detainees charge they have been kept for months on end. And reports of deaths, suicide attempts, and hunger strikes from those detainees.”

It does sound like a very precarious situation, particularly given the fact that these people are not criminals in the traditional sense. 

Think Orange is the New Black but much worse and real life.

Credit: Orange Is The New Black / Netflix

Viewers of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black might get an idea of what the privatization of correctional facilities and the use of these by ICE means for actual human beings. Of course the show was a romanticized version of reality, and we are sure that the brick and mortar versions of these prisons are much worse. This is what happens when the lives or human beings are assigned a number in terms of profit, and when companies make a a buck out of suffering. 

Abusive guards, moldy food, LaSalle’s facilities seem to be hell on Earth.

As The Washington Post reports: “Nathalia Rocha Dickson, a Louisiana immigration lawyer, said conditions in these facilities are dire: Guards who don’t speak Spanish and who are largely untrained, rotating in and out. Tasteless food served at strict meal times, and a commissary that’s expensive or is unavailable entirely”. Yuselys, a Cuban woman detained in one of these places told VICE: ““All of the people who are detained there are suffering. They’re anxious, they’re depressed, they lay in bed all day and don’t want to get up for anything because of how depressed they are”. It sounds como un infierno en vida. 

Guards working for LaSalle have been found guilty of brutal practices.

Guards at one of the correctional facilities operated by LaSalle, a place called Richmond, were found guilty of pepper spraying inmates who were handcuffed and kneeling down. This happened when Richmond was holding civil offenders, not migrants. However, critics say that their practices have not changed much, and that there are other red flags such as the lack of medical support based of financial reasons. The philosophy seems to be: if it is gonna cost us, then you are on your own. 

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