The Justice Department has said it will no longer contract out federal prison management…will ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement do the same when it comes to detention centers for undocumented immigrants? Reporter-Editor Monica Campbell of PRI’s radio news magazine The World went for a family visit to one privately-run detention center in Arizona.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s detention center in Eloy, AZ, about an hour southeast of Phoenix is a big and busy place, and by at least one important measure, for its prisoners it is one of the most dangerous of ICE’s 637 facilities. It is run by the Corrections Corporation of America, CCA.
CCA is one of the 2 biggest operators of privately-run prisons in America and saw its stock value drop by half after the Justice announced it would no longer contract for private Federal prisons. Why? Because, said a Justice Department official, “private prisons simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the [Justice] Department’s Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for ICE prisons including Eloy, has hedged on whether it would also stop using the private prison companies, but advocates say a problem last year at Eloy strongly suggests CCA should be forced out of the federal immigrant detention business as well for the same reason, a failure to provide adequate safety and security.
According to ICE data obtained and analyzed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, of the 7000 inmates who occupied Eloy’s 1500 beds over the year 2015,14 died there, 5 of them by suicide. This gave Eloy a prisoner death rate 4 times that of rest of the ICE detention system.
These data, say Arizona detainee advocate groups, support anecdotal reports that CCA was providing poor health, and especially mental health, care to the immigrant men being held at Eloy.
Monica Campbell is an editor and report for PRI Radio’s newsmagazine The World. She focuses on immigration coverage in the United States, working with a network of journalists based throughout the country to uncover how America’s shifting demographics are changing everything from culture to politics. Before joining The World, Campbell reported internationally from Europe and Afghanistan and, from 2003 to 2009, from Latin America and the Caribbean.