Coalition Petitions Homeland Security to End Privatization of Detention Centers

By Kenrya Rankin Sep 28, 2016

Last Month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will phase out the use of privately operated prisons, citing data that shows for-profit institutions are not as safe or effective as those run directly by the government.

Today (September 28), a coalition of 350 legal rights and progressive organizations—including Color Of Change, Presente, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Mijente and the American Civil Liberties Union—delivered a petition demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) follow suit and dump its contracts with private corporations.

The petition, signed by more than 250,000 people, was delivered to the DHS office in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with a press conference where former detainees shared their experiences of being in privately-run detention centers.

“With animosity towards the Latinx immigrant community at an all-time high, we have an incredible opportunity to deal a huge blow to a system that profits from human imprisonment. DHS should follow the lead of the Department of Justice and move urgently to sever ties with private prison corporations,” Matt Nelson, executive director of Presente, said in a statement emailed to Colorlines. “Entire families, including children, are locked up in these detention centers where rape is frequently reported, health care is inadequate or nonexistent and the food unsanitary. Shame on DHS for sanctioning, and funding, these cruel and inhumane practices. This is sickening and needs to end immediately.”

Shortly after the DOJ’s announcement, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement saying that he had directed the Homeland Security Advisory Council “to review our current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated.”

The coalition hopes that the petition will influence the agency’s decisions at all levels. “The country’s detention system represents a major crisis made worse by companies profiting from the suffering of the people kept inside,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a field director for Mijente and the Not1More Deportation campaign said in the statement. “The review should investigate those facilities and address the policies and prosecutions that are unnecessarily filling them in the first place.”