Resurgence of Private PrisonsThe Resurgence of Private Prisons and the Rise of the Police State

By: Glenn Fogle, Esq. for The Immigration Education Project

Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, has signaled that he would bring back private prison contracts for Federal prisons which had begun to be phased out by the previous Department of Justice. This is not surprising with the shamelessly corrupt Trump administration because the Trump campaign received large donations from the private prison industry and former Sessions staff are suddenly lobbyists for the industry.

The private prison industry makes money on the human bodies it holds–on the taxpayer’s dime. This industry has a direct interest in the government imprisoning and detaining as many people as possible because the more people they detain, the more money they make for their shareholders. Therefore, private prison companies are not concerned about safety, medical care, or humane treatment of detainees, they are merely concerned with saving as much money as possible while holding the inmates to increase their profit. Interestingly, the share prices for the private prison companies has risen significantly with the election of Trump and confirmation of Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General.

The majority of immigration detainees are detained in private prisons. Moreover, the majority of those held in immigration prisons are not criminals but merely people in violation of the immigration laws of the United States which are civil violations. Thus, in reality, the vast majority of immigration inmates should not even be detained, but unfortunately the private prison industry has successfully pulled off one of the biggest racketeering schemes on the American public ever.

With Trump’s promise to deport vast numbers of illegal immigrants in the United States and arrest and detain as many as possible, the private prison industry is literally “dancing for joy,” as it will have a constant stream of inventory to fill the prisons and be paid for by the US taxpayer. The Justice Department under the Obama administration decided to phase out the use of private prisons for federal purposes because of the numerous violations of federal prison standards by the private prison system which included inadequate medical care, sanitation, frequent use of solitary confinement and failure to meet the minimum federal guidelines for housing prisoners. It was obvious to the Justice Department over the years that the private prison industry was constantly cutting corners and failing to follow federal guidelines in order to increase their margin of profit per prisoner and moreover, were not more cost effective compared to federal prisons.

Trump’s effort to vastly increase the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and border patrol agents is endemic of the rise of the police state. Jeff Sessions has made it clear that his solution to any violations of the law is to put people in jail. He has further indicated that he wants to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized marijuana, which will entail putting more and more people in jail. The United States has the largest prison population in the world already and the Trump administration wants to make it bigger at the expense of the US taxpayer and for the profit of their friends in the private prison industry, which helped fund his campaign.

Law-enforcement, emboldened by the Trump administration, now feel that they have a green light to behave and be as abusive as they want with no repercussions from the Department of Justice or the federal government. This not be only affects immigrants and foreign visitors but also US citizens. A prime example of this is the harassment Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the great Muhammad Ali, endured by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, at the Fort Lauderdale airport recently.  Ali, Jr. was detained for over two hours by CBP Agents being questioned about his name, religion and where he born. They even refused to believe he was the great boxer’s son. There have also been reports of CBP agents stopping and searching passengers on domestic flights, which they have no right to do other than in very limited situations. If CBP does not have any immigrants to search, they will certainly turn their attention to US citizens.

The only protection we will have against an overreaching Police State, eager to fill private for-profit prisons, are the courts and attorneys who are willing to stand up for our constitutional rights, fight for justice and hold them accountable.