Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Children and families behind lock and key of Corrections Corporation of America

Family detention center alternately called "a model facility" and "a penal detention model that is fundamentally anti-family and anti-American"

Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America has been in the news a lot lately (but not in Nashville, it seems) because of one of its facilities that is used to hold immigrant families, including children. CCA's T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (just outside Austin) has been the subject of controversies in the last few months in regard to the detention of specific families, the amount of education children are receiving in general, whether the conditions are too prison-like, and whether children should be detained at all. To address some of these concerns, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) led a press tour of the Hutto Center to show how detainee-friendly it is, complete with playgrounds, activities for children, cribs, and unlocked doors.

This facility has the potential of affecting immigrants everywhere. In the high-profile Claudia Nunez case in Nashville, for example, the tug of the story was that Nunez's family faced separation if she were deported (story here). Even detractors of this CCA facility like the fact that it has the potential of keeping families together, at least those with identical immigration status. Nunez's mixed-status family, however, would still presumably be separated, as they were when she was first held for deportation. See below for family separations involving Hutto, and see this story about a recent raid in Massachusetts, which apparently led to mothers and children being separated, with some going to Hutto.

The Tennessean reported in May 2006 that holding more immigrants would be great for CCA stockholders (similar report here), but there doesn't seem to be any Nashville media follow-up on how immigrants are impacting CCA's bottom line. Beyond the business performance of the company, the various Hutto controversies have also been absent from the headlines here, where CCA is headquartered.

Another interesting CCA story that apparently missed the Nashville media is that the company was recently fined for hiring too many Hispanics. My apologies to any local media outlets that covered these stories, but I haven't seen them.

Update 5/5/07: Salon reports here that "Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest provider of corrections management services ... announced a 44.4 percent increase in earnings for the first quarter of 2007 in part as a result of federal revenues 'favorably impacted by new contracts from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ('ICE') at our T. Don Hutto Residential Center, our Stewart Detention Center and our Eloy Detention Center.'"

Here are some of the Hutto stories from around the country:

Austin Chronicle: Ibrahim family story and background

ICE fact sheet about Hutto

Latino USA report (audio): "Imagine, you've been arrested and you're an undocumented immigrant. Until recently, the government's policy was catch and release, whereby you would have been quickly released and given a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge. Now, new federal immigration policy mandates illegal immigrants be detained while they await deportation proceedings. At a private facility near Austin, Texas, children are being detained along with their parents under the new rules. It's one of the two facilities in country where families are held on non-criminal charges. Sarah Bush brings us this report on the new, family-style approach to immigrant detention."

News8Austin: lawsuit threatened about children's education

New York Times article: "Responding to complaints about conditions at the nation's main family detention center for illegal immigrants, officials threw open the gates on Friday for a first news media tour. They portrayed the privately run converted prison, open since May, as a model facility"

SeekingAlpha.com stock analysis: "We're just getting to know the stock, but we think the overall story has legs. We view CXW as a pure play on the detention of illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security's secure border initiative, passed in 2005, calls for at least 1,000 new border patrol agents and approximately $4B in funding for US Immigration & Customs Enforcement, including $90M for detention beds alone. Clearly, this bodes well for prison operators like CXW."

Austin Statesman: CCA ordered to provide state-level education for children

Texas Civil Rights Review: op-Ed piece about children in prison

Texas Civil Rights Review: Ibrahim family released

Texas Observer: op-ed piece "Children Behind Bars in America"

Washington Post: Border Policy's Success Strains Resources: "With roughly 1.6 million illegal immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, ICE holds more inmates a night than Clarion hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines. ... About 80 percent of ICE's beds are rented at 300 local and state jails nationwide, concentrated in the South and Southwest, or at eight sites run by contractors such as the Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group Inc., in places such as Houston, San Diego and Aurora, Colo. ... ICE recently added a 1,524-bed facility in Stewart County, Ga., and a 512-bed center in Taylor, Tex., for immigrant families, both run by Corrections Corp. ... Under fire in Taylor, for example, ICE has expanded hours of daily schooling for children from one to seven hours to meet Texas guidelines."

Washington Post article: "Before the facility opened, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely separated parents from their children upon apprehension by the Border Patrol. Infants and toddlers were placed in federally funded foster homes; adolescents and teenagers were placed in facilities for minors run by the Department of Health and Human Services; and parents were placed in adult detention centers. Despite the change in policy, two national organizations decry the conditions at Hutto and have termed the facility 'a penal detention model that is fundamentally anti-family and anti-American.' The center, which the DHS opened last May, is an unacceptable method 'for addressing the reality of the presence of families in our immigration system,' says a report written by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, in New York, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in Baltimore, and scheduled for release Thursday."

CBS 11 video on Hutto tour and detainee family (YouTube)

CBS 11 update on detainee family (YouTube)

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