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Prison Reform Groups Call For End Of Federally funded Private Prisons

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Sep 2012 04:07pm | comments
AP Photo: taken at the facility during the May riot.

Prison reform advocates are calling for an end to private prisons that mainly hold illegal immigrants, including a Mississippi facility that erupted in a deadly riot this spring. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the groups claim the prisons create the conditions that contributed to the May riot that left one guard dead.

There are 13 federally funded private prisons intended mainly to hold illegal immigrations nationwide.

One is the the Adams County Correctional Facility where a May prisoner riot left a guard dead.

Judy Green with the prison reform group Justice Strategies is calling for an end to these prisons saying they are over-crowded, have poor medical care and mistreat prisoners.

"Compared with low security prisons that the bureau itself runs, these low security contract prisons have higher rates of mistakes. Higher rates of disturbances. And higher rates on contraband," Green said.

Green blames the federal government's 2005 decision to charge illegal immigrants with felonies and detain them for 1-to-5 years before deportation.

Green says that is good for private prison companies but contributes to the conditions that lead to the May riot in Adams County.

That's the same prison where Angelica Moreno's brother was held for three years before he died of lung cancer in May.

"It is like living in Hell. That is not a prison. This is Hell. We are in Hell. We have no voice," Moreno said.

Moreno says her brother often complained about mistreatment and blames overcrowding and poor health care at the prison for his death.

"For my brother it is too late. When he was alive he said 'Mom, when I am not here any more please do something about it. Don't let me just die in vain. Do something about it because the people that are still there are suffering'," Moreno said.

Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs the prison, strongly disagrees with picture painted by the advocates.

In a written statement, CCA says they humanely detain the prisoners and rehabilitate them at a savings to tax payers.

The company also says it neither lobbies for nor takes a stance on immigration detention policies, and that it is wrong for reform advocates to 'attack' the company.

MPB News reached out to both Senators and all four Representatives about plans to open two more prisons and to get their reaction to the report:

Senator Roger Wicker:

"Corrections officers and officials at the Adams County Correctional Facility do an admirable job often in difficult situations.  The Administration has failed to produce a plan to strengthen our border security, which should be our first priority to address illegal immigration.  Suggestions to defund prisons like those in Adams County are misguided."

Congressman Bennie Thompson:

“This report is just an additional criticism that I hear almost daily now about how private facilities are being run. I think the greater likelihood that congress will probably start bringing those facilities under direct Federal supervision rather than outsourcing the supervision with private facilities. Until we get a better handle on this situation, we should hold up any additional investment in privately run facility until those questions are answered."


Senator Thad Cochran:

“This funding has strong bipartisan support.  Illegal immigration is a persistent and growing problem that adversely affects the federal prison population, endangering guards and inmates.  This situation is not likely to abate until we have more secure U.S. borders and policies that dissuade illegal entry into the United States.  The proposed FY2013 funding, along with funding for the activation of Yazoo City’s prison annexation, is needed to alleviate an increasing federal inmate population.”    


Bureau of Prisons (BOP):

  • Low-security crowding is currently 40 percent over the rated capacity in BOP-operated facilities (rated capacity includes 100 percent double bunking at this security level), which means 86 percent of the inmates are triple bunked.  The size of the federal inmate population greatly exceeds the rated capacity of its prisons, and has become a critical management issue.   


  • The majority of BOP inmates in private contract facilities are low-security, sentenced criminal aliens.  As the number of contract beds increases, the BOP continues to monitor, evaluate and make appropriate changes to the management and oversight of contract facilities.  The BOP has on-site monitors at each of its private prison contracts.  Through the Privatization Management Branch, the BOP oversees the operation of secure contract facilities, and staff from this branch ensure that contractors adhere to established performance standards.


AP Photo: taken at the facility during the May riot.



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