ACLU Releases Report On Treatment Of Undocumented Immigrants In Private Texas Prisons

Jun 10, 2014

The cover image of the ACLU report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private-Prison System.
Credit ACLU of Texas

Amid overcrowding issues at immigration prisons in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report on the treatment of non-violent undocumented prisoners at private facilities. The ACLU focused on five facilities in Texas.

Criminal alien requirement (CAR) prisons are privately-owned facilities that house non-violet undocumented individuals that have re-entered the country after being deported. The ACLU of Texas and its national office looked at the treatment of non-citizens at these locations over a five-year period.  

Carl Takei with the ACLU National Prison Project said the Bureau of federal Prisons (BOP) has provided financial incentives that lead to overcrowding.

“The contract that BOP negotiated with the private prison companies call for what is called 'minimum occupancy guarantees,' ” Takei said.

That means these private prisons must have a 90% occupancy rate at all times. Takei said when that number goes above an 115% occupancy rate they are paid extra.

But it isn’t just financial side of these facilities that the report focuses on. Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said they documented delayed medical care that in some cases resulted in death and misuse of isolation cells; using them as overflow areas for two to three men at a time. Piñon said even within the general population, space was cramped.

“In Willacy [County], men are housed in Kevlar tents, crammed approximately 200 men to a tent with little space in between their bed," Piñon said. "The tent is infested with spiders and smell of overflowing toilets fills the tents."

The report also highlights some of the inhumane living conditions prisoners face at the facilities. Piñon said she spoke with a prisoner named Dominik at the Big Springs facility who told her about dealing with the smell:

"Sometimes the water would stop working and during this time he and his fellow inmates would have to cover the toilets with towels so the smell wouldn’t permeate as much,” Piñon said.

The ACLU is calling for an investigation by the office of the inspector general regarding the living conditions of the immigration prisons.