Azadeh Shahshahani wrote for the AJC 11 June 2009, Private prisons for immigrants lack accountability, oversight
On March 11, a 39-year-old man held in detention at the Stewart Detention Center, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in southwest Georgia, died at a hospital in Columbus.That’s in Lumpkin, west of Americus, south of Columbus.
To this day, the immediate cause of Roberto Martinez Medina’s death remains unclear (a press release pronounced the cause of death as “apparent natural causes”).That’s in Alamo, GA, between Macon, Tifton, and Savannah.
Both facilities are operated by Corrections Corp. of America, which has a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to operate the Stewart center and one with the Georgia Department of Corrections to operate the one in Wheeler County.So, what happened?
The DOC has not released additional information about the death of Odom, due to an ongoing investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.That’s right, we don’t know.
What sets apart the deaths of these two men held at CCA-operated facilities is the difference in official responses.
In the case of the death at the immigration detention facility, there have been no further explanations regarding what may have prompted the death — much less an official investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was created as a part of Homeland Security in 2003 to consolidate immigration enforcement.
Just like even the VDT can’t find out what’s going on at Valdosta State Prison. Maybe we should send the GA legislature some suggestions for their 30 August hearing on open meetings and open records.
How bad is it?
From October 2003 through Feb. 7, 2009, 18 people died in immigration detention custody in facilities operated by CCA alone, according to information from The New York Times.That’s around 4 CCA prison deaths a year, which beats about 2 a year in the Lowndes County jail. Probably CCA has a lot more prisoners locked up, so that’s not surprising. However, it goes to show that privatizing prisons doesn’t look like much of a way to improve prisoner safety. And unsafe prisoners are unsafe for the general public, because they’ll try harder to escape.
Yet ICE has failed repeatedly to hold CCA accountable. Instead, the federal agency continues to reward CCA with additional contracts, most recently for operation of the North Georgia Detention Center in Hall County.
Azadeh Shahshahani is the National Security/ Immigrants’ Rights Project director for the ACLU of Georgia and chairs Georgia Detention Watch.Yes, I am a card-carrying ACLU member. Aren’t you?
And we don’t need a CCA private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education.