The New Prisons

From a brief piece in the London Review of Books on immigration detention centers:

Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea living in Brooklyn, is one of 71 detainees to have died in the last four years in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An illegal immigrant confined to a detention centre after his green card application was rejected, Bah died after a fall that no one seems to have witnessed. ICE, which was set up by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, is responsible for the detention of a staggering number of people: 311,213 last year, a million since 2004. They are held in prisons in which, according to Mark Dow, the author of American Gulag (2005), ‘extreme forms of physical abuse are not just aberrations.’ The centre where Bah was detained is managed by Corrections Corporation of America, a firm set up in 1983 in Nashville by a group of investors that included a former chairman of Tennessee’s Republican Party. A pioneer in running private prisons, it has also been quick to specialise in immigrant detention, the fastest growing branch of the incarceration business.

CCA describes itself as the ‘nation’s largest provider of outsourced corrections management’, with 70,000 inmates and 16,000 staff. Its website speaks proudly of ‘similarities in mission and structure’ with the US army and makes a special appeal to veterans in search of work: ‘How will you make the transition from military to civilian life? CCA features a paramilitary structure: a highly refined chain of command, and policies and procedures that dictate facility operations.’

Things are similarly bleak for immigrants and refugees in the UK, as Adam Shatz explains.