Blog of Rights

Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia

By Azadeh N. Shahshahani, ACLU Foundation of Georgia at 12:17pm

The ACLU of Georgia recently released a comprehensive report on conditions of detention for immigrants in Georgia, three of which are operated by for-profit corporations and one of which, the Stewart Detention Center, is the largest immigration detention facility in the country.

For purposes of this documentation project, the ACLU of Georgia interviewed 68 individuals who were detained at the Georgia immigration detention facilities, as well as detainees' family members and immigration attorneys. We also toured the detention centers and reviewed documents obtained from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies. The findings in “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia” raise serious concerns about violations of detainees’ due process rights, inadequate living conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and abuse of power by those in charge.

Among the problems we documented: inadequate information about available pro bono legal services, inadequate conditions for attorney visits which raise attorney/client confidentiality issues, and delays in gaining access to the law library.  Detainees also face unreasonable delays in receiving medical care and in the case of detainees with mental disabilities, punitive rather than care-oriented treatment. We also documented numerous concerns about cell conditions including temperature extremes and overcrowding; hygiene concerns including instances where facilities ran out of hygiene items and detainees simply had to go without; used underwear provided to detainees at Irwin; food concerns including unusual mealtimes, insufficient quantity, and poor quality; limited recreation; and a work program at two corporate run detention centers where detainees are paid $1.00 to $3.00 per day and sometimes are coerced to work. Other findings point to a failed grievance procedure where detainees who filed grievances did not always receive responses, verbal and physical abuse, and retaliatory behavior from guards including placing detainees in segregation. 

You can read more about the problems we documented, along with the stories of several people caught in the system, in a piece I wrote for Al Jazeera that can be viewed here.

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