Corporations shouldn't profit from Black pain
Tell DHS: End Private Prisons Now !
Department of Homeland Security announced it will review its use of private detention centers—but the prison industrial complex is far from over. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—the private prison industry’s largest client—will continue to operate over 155 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers under private prison contracts. This is fueling a vicious system of for-profit incarceration and a political machine that wants to make sure mass incarceration never ends.1
The announcement is a huge step in the right direction—but we won't stop corporations from profiting off the captivity of Black people if DHS and ICE don’t cut ties with private prisons too. And with the news from the Department of Justice (DOJ) percolating through national headlines, people are already pressuring the DHS to follow its lead. Will you sign the petition ?
Immediately following the DOJ announcement, Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) and GEO Group--the two largest private prison corporations—stock plunged nearly 40 percent. That’s a lot, but not enough to make a dent in the companies' multi-million dollar lobbying budget.2 Since 1989, CCA and GEO have spent over $35 MILLION lobbying and supporting political campaigns to keep Black people in jail. They’ve lobbied for longer sentences, “three-strikes” rules, and anti-immigration legislation like Arizona’s notorious racial profiling law. Stopping private prison companies means stopping a political machine with only one interest: maintaining a profit-driven system of keeping Black folks locked up.
The Department of Homeland Security, led by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson, is the biggest contributor to the private prison industry. Its divestment would take us much closer to ending private prisons than the Department of Justice’s. Only eight percent of federal and state prisons combined are run by for-profit companies—while a whopping 62 percent of immigration detention centers are for-profit. If DHS cuts ties with private prisons now, it would have an even more devastating impact on the private prison industry and its political power.
Secretary Johnson knows a review is not enough. Johnson is a graduate of the historical Black college Morehouse College and comes from a civil rights family. His grandfather, Dr. Charles S. Johnson, was a well-known researcher, advocate for Black people and president of Fisk University, another historically black college. Secretary Johnson is a part of a legacy that embodies the fight for equality. He cannot let his new legacy be based on leading a federal department that violates human rights and commits abuse.
Private prisons are the most horrific places to be imprisoned. ICE detention centers where undocumented individuals, families, and even children are held captive are in horribly inhumane conditions and routinely violate civil and human rights.3 They force women and children to sleep on cold floors, eat food infested with maggots, go without proper medical care, and women are too often sexually assaulted by guards. The facilities are so poorly run, that many have died in these detention centers. Even the federal report that prompted the DOJ’s announcement found that private prisons run by corporations are less safe and less secure.
Companies shouldn’t profit from mass incarceration and the suffering of Black people. Demand DHS divest from private prisons.
ICE detention centers also detain Black undocumented people at a higher rate due to anti-Black racial profiling, over policing, and incarceration. Black immigrants who face any type of criminal conviction or attempt to seek asylum with the U.S. are more likely to bear the brunt of deportation and detention leaving them more vulnerable to the private prison system.4
Private prison companies depend on the suffering of Black people to make profit—and it has to end now. Just last year, DHS’s operation of ICE doubled the revenue it was sending to private prison companies.5 And over the years, DHS has made the private prison industry very profitable—now worth roughly more than $70 billion.
But here’s the good news: The DOJ’s decision and now DHS announcement sets a huge precedent in weakening the power of private prison companies—and we have a real chance to force DHS and ICE to follow suit. Private prisons have no place in our society and we must continue to fight against an industry that capitalizes off of Black pain.
Until justice is real,
Rashad, Arisha, Scott, Anay, Clarise, and the rest of the Color Of Change team
1)“The Problem With The DOJ’s Decision To Stop Using Private Prisons,” Think Progress, 08.18.2016.
2)“How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about,” The Washington Post, 04.28.2015.
3)“Overcrowded, unsanitary conditions seen at immigrant detention centers,” Los Angeles Times, 06.18.2014.
4)“Black Immigrants' Lives Matter : Disrupting the Dialogue on Immigrant Detention,” Truth-Out.org, 07.22.2015.
5)“Sorry, But the Private Prison Industry isn’t Going Anywhere,” The Huffington Post, 08.18.2016.
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