Acknowledging DOJ Report on Private Prisons

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[Migrants] [ULK Issue 54]
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Acknowledging DOJ Report on Private Prisons

There has been a lot of buzz recently about a report on private prisons released by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the subsequent memo from the Attorney General announcing they will phase out the use of private prisons for federal detention.(1)

The petty-bourgeois anti-corporate capitalists who have been campaigning against private prisons for a long time are seeing this announcement as a result of their organizing work. And it's possible that on some level the announcements are an effort by the DOJ to quell the slew of recent bad publicity.(2) Yet we disagree with these campaigners' idea that capitalism is okay so long as the petty-bourgeoisie is allowed to compete. We disagree with their stance that prisons under capitalism function for the common good so long as the private corporations get out the way. We see more similarities between state-run and privately-operated facilities than we see differences.

The facilities that the DOJ is talking about closing house mostly non-citizens,(3) which raises questions for us as to what is the real intention or cause of this change, and what's coming down the line for the enforcement of U.$. borders. We have no reason to believe this shift from the BOP has anything to do with more freedom or better treatment for non-citizens.

Capitalists follow money. In the 1980s, there was increased imprisonment rates and a need for more housing for prisoners, which state bureaucracy couldn't build fast enough. So capitalists built prison facilities in order to get money from the state. They kept costs as low as possible and tried to keep capacity as full as possible. The cause and effect is basic math. Obviously when putting profits over people there are many inherent problems that will come up. Eventually, as the capitalists are accustomed to, their venture would need to change shape. It appears the time to change shape is imminent.

We don't know what back-room deals broke down or were made that led to the report and memo. Did the DOJ just strike a better deal with a private busing company, to expedite the deportation of these migrants?(4) Was the pressure to change significantly more influential from the corrections officers unions, who are excluded from employment in private facilities?(5) Is it more closely related to a reduction in the federal prison population overall, and private prisons are just being used as a convenient scapegoat? "Increased prosecution of unlawful entry and re-entry" has been touted as a "hallmark of President Obama's enforcement policies," is the Democratic Party just trying to save face leading up to the next presidential election?(6) Is there something else that has yet to be uncovered, that helped expedite the decision? And as we imply above, maybe the capitalists have simply found a more profitable use for their facilities and are welcoming this change.(7) We seriously doubt the DOJ decided to phase out the use of private prisons on moral grounds.

There is something to be said about the difficulties in operating a prison with extremely bad conditions, whether private or publicly run. Oppression breeds resistance. Where we see riots in private prisons literally burn them to the ground and make them uninhabitable, we haven't seen the same level of resistance in public facilities in a long time.(8) Commentators have cited common nationality as helpful in non-citizen prisoners organizing themselves (in contrast to the divided populations of most multi-national prisons in the United $tates). Also, being a migrant with more to gain than lose in resisting, responding to extreme oppression is natural and necessary.

The state has a long-term interest in balancing their ongoing oppression with some rewards for those who play along. We see this constantly in our organizing work: there are many abuses, and grievances are denied without grounds, but if the prisoners have TVs and nudie mags many are happy to go with the flow and not stir up any trouble. The private prison companies either haven't mastered this delicate balance, or don't care because their interests for profit are so short-term and immediate. When the cost-benefit analysis is no longer in their favor, they'll just move on to a different industry where the profit margin is higher. The state's long-term interest of social control of oppressed internal semi-colonies, however, can't afford the same luxury.

Notes:
(1). Announcement from Attorney General that BOP will phase out private prisons: https://www.justice.gov/opa/blog/phasing-out-our-use-private-prisons. Report from OIG on privately-operated federal prisons: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e1606.pdf. Memo from Attorney General to Bureau of Prisons ordering nonrenewal of private contracts: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/886311/download.
(2). MIM(Prisons), "Private Prisons Exposed, and Same as Public," ULK 51, July 2016.
(3). OIG DOJ, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring of Contract Prisons, p. i. "low security,criminal alien adult males with 90 months or less remaining to serve on their sentences."
(4). Private prison busing companies have recently been in the news for their mistreatment of detainees. See: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/07/06/inside-the-deadly-world-of-private-prisoner-transport#.TbPYIHGeb and http://www.allgov.com/news/controversies/the-little-known-world-of-private-prison-transport-escapes-rapes-and-death-141006?news=854448. Yet Freddie Gray's death at the hand of the Baltimore Police Department was not caused by a private company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Freddie_Gray
(5). American Federation of Government Employees, "Federal Correctional Officers Praise DOJ Decision to End Use of Private Prisons," 18 August 2016.
(6). Zoe Carpenter, "A 2-Day Revolt at a Texas Private Prison Reveals Everything That's Wrong with Criminalizing Immigration," The Nation, 24 February 2016.
(7). Joshua Holland, "Private Prison Companies are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration," The Nation, 23 August 2016. Additionally, vacant prisons have been turning into marijuana growing facilities in Nevada and California. With the change in legality of recreational and medicinal marijuana across the country, profitable options are opening up for these soon-to-be-uncontracted facilities. See: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/city-704094-adelanto-cultivation.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3686519/Coalinga-California-prison-marijuana-farm.html
(8). Report, p. i, "In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer." See also: https://www.thenation.com/article/2-day-revolt-texas-private-prison-reveals-everything-thats-wrong-criminalizing-immigrati/ and http://www.cbs5az.com/story/29485786/arizona-governor-calls-for-probe-of-private-prison-unrest.
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