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3 Months in Juvie For a MySpace Joke? How the For-Profit Prison Industry Locks Up More People Each Year

Private prisons are marked by corruption, expense, abuses--and yet their reach is vast, and it's growing.

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Despite that record - ironically, on the very day the lawsuit was filed - the company was awarded a contract by ICE to operate a new 600-bed "civil" detention center in Karnes County, Texas. Texas has more for-profit prisons than any other state.

In another case, a former immigration detention guard was convicted of sexually abusing female detainees in the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, near Austin, Texas, which is managed by CCA. The resident supervisor, Donald Dunn, 30, was charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint, the Austin American-Statesman  reported.

The ACLU said CCA officials were violating policy by allowing female immigration detainees to be isolated with male staff members. After an ACLU investigation into sexual abuse at the Hutto facility, Vanita Gupta, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said the charges show additional need for reform.

Then there is the issue of death in detention. Nina Bernstein, writing in The New York Times, alleged that ICE officials, fearful of media scrutiny, conspired to conceal the details surrounding the deaths of a number of detained immigrants who died in  privately run detention centers. Bernstein wrote, " ... it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry."

The documents were obtained by The Times and the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act. They relate to most of the 107 deaths in detention counted by ICE October 2003, when the agency was created within the DHS. The documents also revealed ten deaths in detention that had never been disclosed by the government. The ACLU says the number of deaths has increased since then.

The article details a litany of abuses. For example:

"As one man lay dying of head injuries suffered in a New Jersey immigration jail in 2007, for example, a spokesman for the federal agency told The Times that he could learn nothing about the case from government authorities. In fact, the records show, the spokesman had alerted those officials to the reporter's inquiry, and they conferred at length about sending the man back to Africa to avoid embarrassing publicity."

"In another case that year, investigators from the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that unbearable, untreated pain had been a significant factor in the suicide of a 22-year-old detainee at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, and that the medical unit was so poorly run that other detainees were at risk."

"The investigation found that jail medical personnel had falsified a medication log to show that the detainee, a Salvadoran named Nery Romero, had been given Motrin. The fake entry was easy to detect: When the drug was supposedly administered, Mr. Romero was already dead."

"Yet those findings were never disclosed to the public or to Mr. Romero's relatives on Long Island, who had accused the jail of abruptly depriving him of his prescription painkiller for a broken leg. And an agency supervisor wrote that because other jails were 'finicky' about accepting detainees with known medical problems like Mr. Romero's, such people would continue to be placed at the Bergen jail as 'a last resort.'"

Another case concerns Yusif Osman, who was a US legal resident from Ghana and had been living in Los Angeles for five years. After a companion carrying false ID landed him in an immigration detention center run by CCA, Osman was facing deportation on smuggling charges, an allegation he denied. While at the immigration detention center outside San Diego, he died suddenly. His story highlights the poor care some immigrants have received in the scores of immigration facilities across the United States.

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