Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ACLU files new lawsuit against CCA

By Elaine Hirsch

A lawsuit recently filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU-TX) against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) underscores the perils of the American prison-industrial complex, an aspect of corrections facility management studied by politicians, master’s degree candidates, and lawyers in the United States.

The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of three female detainees whose identities were withheld to maintain anonymity. According to the ACLU-TX filing, the immigrant women were being transported from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Williamson County to Austin, Texas, when they allegedly suffered sexual abuse while in the custody of ICE. One CCA employee and three ICE officials have been named in the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time that CCA has come under fire for prisoner abuse. The CCA has operated the T. Don Hutto Residential Center since 2006. The day-to-day operations of the detention center are conducted by a cadre of ICE employees and CCA guards. In August 2010, the ACLU reported that a CCA guard was charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing female inmates at the same ICE facility in Williamson County. The Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale University teamed up with the school’s employee union to force a divestment based on CCA’s long record of civil rights violations.

Days after the filing the latest lawsuit against the CCA, the ACLU released a scathing report criticizing the massive profits realized by private prison contractors such as CCA during recessionary times. “Banking on Bondage: PrivatePrisons and Mass Incarceration” is the name of the report that shows the two most prominent prison profiteers, CCA and the GEO Group, received a combined revenue of $3 billion and earned hundreds of millions in profits in 2010.

CCA’s sketchy record of managing American prisons comes at a time when the state of Arizona is preparing to award a lucrative contract to private jailers despite a report from the Auditor General that state-operated facilities would actually cost less to maintain.

The meteoric rise of the private prison population in the United States is certainly sobering: a 1664% increase over the last two decades. According to industry analysts, there are plenty of long-term growth opportunities for business entities such as CCA. Mark Whitburn, an attorney at the ACLU of Texas, believes that the complaints lodged by the three plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit against the CCA are only “the tip of the iceberg.” 

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.  She is currently a writer for a master's degree program resource.


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