Published Jun 6, 2012 10:41 PM
The facility, one of more than 60 managed by the Corrections Corporation of America for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, holds 2,500 of the 75,000 prisoners in CCA facilities around the country. All of the inmates at the Natchez prison are undocumented immigrants.
While officials from CCA and police authorities blame so-called gang violence for the seizure of the facility, it has been well documented that CCA prisons have a higher incidence of violence due to oppressive conditions and systemic abuse of inmates by guards.
The January 2012 Corazón de Tucson report, “The Corrections Corporation of America: How CCA Abuses Prisoners, Manipulates the Public and Destroys Communities,” states, “CCA has frequently been criticized for housing prisoners in inhuman conditions. Unwilling to invest the resources necessary to meet minimum standards of safety and comfort, CCA has exposed inmates to unsafe, unsanitary, overcrowded and otherwise unacceptable conditions. Once again, prisoners’ well-being takes a backseat to the ethos of cost-cutting and CCA has proved unwilling ‘to curtail profit considerations in order to operate prisons and ensure conditions that accord with constitutional standards.’ Inmates at CCA facilities have reported being subjected to severe overcrowding, poor-quality food, poor sanitation, inadequate infection prevention and insufficient provision for exercise and recreation.”
Among other things, the report documents guard-on-inmate violence, sexual abuse and medical negligence.
‘Guards always beat us & hit us’
After the rebellion began, an inmate was able to contact a local TV station. According to the reporter, the inmate said, “They always beat us and hit us. We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical [care], programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.” (Colorlines, May 22)
Patricia Ice, the director of Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, told Colorlines, “I got a complaint from a family member saying that a man had lung cancer and was being ignored. Three weeks earlier, he was examined by a doctor and diagnosed with lung cancer but had not received any treatment at all.”
This rebellion is not a surprise to many who have been involved with the struggle for inmates rights and the fight against the exploding number of privately run facilities. One of the main selling points of private prisons is that they spend less per prisoner than publicly managed facilities.
The lower cost per inmate — a reflection of the callousness of the for-profit company toward inmates — is due to the fact that such facilities provide meager care and constantly violate prisoners’ rights. Inmates are seen as a commodity — more inmates mean more money for the company, and the less money the company spends, the higher the profit. It is obvious that in the U.S., which has 2.5 million prisoners, that the for-profit prison business is booming.
As of this writing, the 2,500 inmates at the Natchez facility are on lockdown. There hasn’t been much information yet on how the rebellion was put down, but at least 20 prisoners have suffered injuries.
For many of the inmates their only “crime” was trying to reenter the country after being deported, so they could provide a better living for themselves and their families. The inmates’ demands are added to calls for legalization of immigrants and the end to the criminalization of poor people and people of color — who make up the great majority of people incarcerated in the U.S.