Caging People For Profit

Matt Peterson
6 min readJan 17, 2022

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When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refused to defend it — at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice.
— Mumia Abu-Jamal

iStockphoto.com

Will the world’s biggest problems ever be solved?

When questions like this are answered in artwork they’re usually expressed in satire or absurdist comedy.

That’s because the question is ridiculous.

It’s about what you can do on a small scale that affects the large one.

One thing that comes to mind is relevancy. If it’s not affecting me and I don’t see it…

  1. How do I know it’s a problem?
  2. If care about the outcome, what can I do to solve it?

“Go to your room and think about what you did.”

Racine Bible Church

Some ICE detention centers are run by a private for-profit prison farm called LaSalle Corrections. LaSalle Corrections has a problematic history. In fact, their business deals in controversy.

During the Obama administration, there were 56 detainee deaths in ICE detention centers. Six of those were suicides.

Since May 2015, at least six prisoners have died in their facilities.

In May 2019, LaSalle Corrections denied medical treatment and water to a female prisoner suffering from AIDS named Holly Barlow-Austin . Barlow-Austin was locked in a cell for almost two months before dying in a hospital bed.

She had been booked on a misdemeanor probation violation.

In October 2019, a Cuban asylum-seeker named Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, 43, died of “self-inflicted strangulation” after complaining about excruciating intestinal pain.

Medical staff had referred Hernandez-Diaz for mental health treatment and noted that he was suffering from severe intestinal pain.

Guards put him in solitary confinement after he vowed to go on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

He hanged himself after being denied treatment.

You can see in this video how the guard neglected to view Hernandez-Diaz in his cell 40 minutes before a jail captain found him hung by his bedsheet.

Derrick Williams was found dead in a LaSalle Corrections detention center on January 23, 2014, in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Williams had complained about headaches and chest pains for a month before his death.

Michael Sabbie was booked on misdemeanor assault in 2015 and held in a Texas prison.

Sabbie told his captors he had heart disease, asthma, and high blood pressure. When apparently having difficulty breathing, Sabbie was accused of faking his illness. On his third day in captivity, he was slammed to a floor by a guard. Moments later, Sabbie lay supine handcuffed on the floor swarmed by guards. One of them dosed Sabbie with anti-assault spray while he lay helpless.

Sabbie said, “I can’t breathe,” 19 times, and died a few hours later.

These inmates were stigmatized and denied humane treatment.

One of the problems with their deaths is that they are seen as prisoners who died in custody rather than people who were failed and wickedly mistreated by a brutally racist system that sanctions profiting off incarceration.

After all, they were captives — prisoners, inmates, criminals — automatic pariahs of the state.

Daily Operation

Michael Sabbie with guards on the day of his death nbcnews.com

LaSalle Corrections is a for-profit business. Three critical concerns for them are:

  • Cutting food costs
  • Keeping employee salaries low, and
  • Keeping their cells filled with detainees

Keeping these concerns in check allows them to generate the highest revenue possible.

LaSalle Corrections has addressed these concerns.

They’ve served rotten food infested with cockroaches to their detainees.

They were penalized by Louisiana’s Department of Labor for failing to pay their employees in Tullos in 2020.

They’ve neglected to provide their detainees with medical treatment resulting in at least six preventable deaths since 2015.

This keeps going because private prisons are paid by the prisoner by the federal government. So they are incentivized to keep their prison cells at maximum housing capacity.

That place should be demolished

Getty Images

In 2021, ICE detainees were removed from Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, and dispatched to various prisons in the United States.

The problem in transferring detainees from one building to another is that they retain the stigmatism of their prisoner status wherever they go. Guards’ mistreatment of prisoners is a class problem, not a geographical one.

The for-profit prison system is a mighty foe. And a prevalent one as roughly a 2/3 majority of conservative voters supports for-profit incarceration.

The three biggest private prison firms operating in the United States are Core Civic, LaSalle Corrections, and Management and Training Corporation.

Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 32% compared to an overall rise in the prison population of 3%.

prisonpolicy.org

For-profit incarceration earned 9.3 billion in revenue in 2021. The immigration detention centers earned $374 million in profit.

The power to incarcerate has gotten stronger, we have more prisons and more people in them than any other country by far, but our country isn’t safer from locking people up.

In 1994, authorities incarcerated approximately 7,000 immigrants every day. In 2019, an average of 50,000 immigrants were sent to prison every day. The United States detention services house around 500,000 immigrants annually.

Private prisons cost more and are less safe than the public system — but they don’t rehabilitate inmates. This isn’t a matter of speculation — they don’t offer rehabilitation services!

In a market economy, the closing of your store doesn’t mean the end of your company if your business is booming — you can just open up another location!

Closing the ICE detention facility in Ocilla, Georgia, needed to happen, but it’s not the crucial offending element in this universe of exploitation. That essential element is ICE itself and the businesses working with ICE against immigrants and emigrants in the United States. Bill Gates’ companies Microsoft and Dell are on the list. Doesn’t Bill Gates have a nonprofit organization that fights poverty, disease, and inequity around the world? What if Bill Gates showed up at ICE detention centers to fight for the rights of detainees? We could all travel to the same detention centers he goes to when he visits them to help him fight for detainees’ rights. Power in numbers.

The word “criminal” is a buzzword that reinforces the idea that if somebody is a “criminal”, they should be locked up for their offense. “Criminal” is an overused word just as noxious as the term “commie” was back in the day’s people were spooked by it.

This month the Biden administration implemented a new rule established by the first step act of 2018 to allow thousands of prisoners to go home earlier than their sentencing release dates.

But the prison reform that the Biden ministration is trying to accomplish will not affect ICE detention centers.

How ICE can be abolished

teenvogue.com

There’s no way to gratifyingly answer this question.

ICE is a federal operation that would take a lot of coordinated effort to see their budget substantially cut back, or their tactics modified, let alone abolished.

But ICE was voted into existence when the United States was still reeling from 911 (2003).

After almost 19 years of brutality, there is a good case for voting it out of existence.

Through a concerted effort, we can:

  1. Persuade Congress to vote to defund and dismantle ICE.
  • 2/3 of voters want to end the expansion of for-profit immigrant detention.

2. Prevent the spread of ICE’s power in our communities by pressuring our local law enforcement to avoid working with ICE or discontinuing their partnership with them.

3. Get involved in mutual aid locally

  • Volunteer for programs that benefit immigrants.
  • Provide legal services you specialize in on a pro bono basis
  • Build a neighborhood pod to make your community stronger

Imagine if we empower our own communities — eventually, there will be communities like ours all over the United States.

Far from a solution.

It’s momentum in the right direction.

If we sustain the momentum.

We can change policy.

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Matt Peterson

I write at the intersection of interest and pressing need.