Behind closed doors, in the custody of for-profit prisons, non-U.S. citizens face “shocking” neglect, abuse, mistreatment, discrimination, arbitrary solitary confinement, and family separation, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report released Tuesday.
The growing “criminalization of immigration,” alongside the rise of mass incarceration, has meant windfall profits for the private corporations that operate the 13 Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons, which are owned by the Bureau of Prisons and detain over 25,000 non-U.S. citizens in facilities deemed “low security,” notes the study.
In 2009, the ACLU launched an investigation of four such CAR prisons located in Texas and collectively hold 14,000 non-U.S. citizens who are federal prisoners, many of whom were convicted of being in the United States while undocumented. In the final report, , numerous interviews, site visits, and reviews of official records reveal a litany of atrocities, including:
- Prison contracts that create incentives for overcrowding and high levels of solitary confinement. “As one prisoner put it, ‘anything you do or say’ can get a person locked up in conditions of extreme isolation, spending 22 to 24 hours per day confined in a small cell where he must eat, sleep, use the toilet, and sometimes even shower,” the report explains. Solitary confinement cells are also used to absorb facility overflow.
- Racial, ethnic, and homophobic discrimination against people detained, including the use of biased slurs as insults by prison authorities.
- Inadequate access to medical care.
- “Prisoners reported severely overcrowded and squalid living conditions,” notes the study.
“There is an overwhelming sense of despair at the CAR prisons we visited,” notes the report. “Many of the men feel forgotten.”
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