Thirteen privately operated, federally funded prisons housing 23,000 alleged illegal immigrants represent an “extremely expensive and problem-plagued, second-class penal system,” contends a report presented today at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The report by the New York City-based Justice Strategies contends that the facilities are unnecessary, existing mostly because of “harsh policies” by federal immigration officials “to prosecute border-crossers as criminals, rather than using the civil enforcement provisions already available under the federal immigration laws.” The issue is being discussed at a briefing sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
The report focuses on one of the prisons, the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Miss., operated by Corrections Corporation of America. In May, says the report, prisoners there “engaged in a collective refusal to return to their cells and thus began an eight-hour standoff that would leave 20 people injured, one guard dead and $1.3 million in property damage.” One inmate was quoted by a local television station as saying, “They always beat us and hit us..We’re trying to get better food, medical, programs, clothes. We’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants that call us wetback.” The report contends that many of the private facilities are “substandard” compared with federal prisons, yet the U.S. Bureau of Prisons last month began soliciting proposals to establish a 14th such institution.