Blog of Rights

Three Reasons to Join Our Protest of 30 Years of Private Prisons Today in D.C.

By Seema Sadanandan, Organizer, ACLU of the Nation's Capital at 10:53am

Join us at noon today in Washington, DC at 19th Street S.E. between C and Burke to protest the Corrections Corporation of America or follow the protest on Twitter @ACLULive.

The emergence of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as a leading prison profiteer is a result of a thoughtful promulgation of laws and policies on a federal and state level. Tough-on-crime sentencing policies in the 1980s included the expansion of mandatory sentencing, three strikes policies and abolishing parole on the federal level. Through tactics like pushing for minimum occupancy guarantees in its prisons, CCA has both contributed to and benefited from this explosion in incarceration. The result: tremendous profits for CCA and mass incarceration for large numbers of African Americans and immigrants.

Here are three reasons why you should join us today at noon, when the Public Safety and Justice Campaign along with civil rights leaders, people of faith, criminal justice reform groups and immigrant rights organizations will hold a protest rally and press conference at the Corrections Corporation of America's Correctional Treatment Facility in DC.

1. JUAN VILLANUEVA

Juan Villanueva arrived in the United States at the age of four. In 1995 he was arrested by an infamous police unit in his neighborhood and accused of homicide. He was convicted of manslaughter. Despite being a Legal Permanent Resident and having served nearly 13 years of his sentence Juan was subsequently deported back to Mexico. Juan yearned to be with his family in California and like thousands of others, he embarked on the life-threatening journey to cross the border. In 2007 he reached the US but was detained by immigration authorities and sentenced to 41-months at a CCA facility known as Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi.

According to a Justice Strategies report, Juan, along with more than 2500 prisoners at the facility, received limited access to medical services during the course of his incarceration. When Juan began coughing up blood the prison staff dismissed his illness as the flu. In the weeks that followed the prisoners watched in horror as Juan deteriorated. Juan along with his entire unit was placed in isolation for three weeks and he continued to vomit blood in his isolation cell. The report concludes that delayed and inadequate medical treatment at this CCA facility paved the path on which Juan traveled to his untimely death-just two months before his release date in 2012.

Juan was not the first to die in the Adams County facility and inmate allegations of abuse circulated including: alleged beatings by guards, discriminatory and humiliating treatment, substandard food, periods of excessive lockdown and lack of proper medical attention.

2. CATLIN CARITHERS

In 2012 Catlin Carithers was one year away from marrying his fiancé, actively involved in his church and passionate about the idea of service to others. He was only 24-years-old when he was beaten to death during an April 2012 prisoner riot in the Adams County facility. The prison riot of more than 300 inmates was allegedly a result of CCA's refusal to address prisoner maltreatment. The suffering of Juan Villanueva served as a catalyst for the unrest.

At the time of his death Carithers was on the roof of the low-to-medium security prison with another officer dropping tear gas canisters near rioting inmates when 10-15 inmates rushed the roof and beat Carithers to death. The Adams County Riot was no isolated event. Indeed, a number of studies and reports suggest that for-profit prisons are more dangerous places to be incarcerated, with higher levels of violence than public prisons.

3. VISTA GRANDE HIGH SCHOOL, CASA GRANDE AZ

On a typical morning in late October of 2012 students filed into Vista Grande High School without incident. According to news reports, CCA correctional officers with trained drug dogs then entered the school and locked the doors, allowing none of the children to leave. The children were asked to wait in the hallways while the classrooms were swept for drugs. The school-wide search was not in response to any prior history of drug abuse in the school but rather an unofficial agremeent between the school's principal and CCA. The drug dogs recovered marijuana belonging to three children, in amounts as small as 0.1 grams.

All three children were arrested and faced criminal charges. One of the children is a 15-year girl who could be tried as an adult and if convicted she would likely face prison time. With mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug free zones, such as Vista Grande High School, she could also face sentencing enhancements. Given CCA's recently-awarded 1,000 bed local facility, this child is precisely the type of medium security prisoner that will make CCA's profits continue to soar.

Click here for more information about anti-CCA events around the country from now through their May 16 shareholder meeting in Nashville.

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