Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System

In rural Texas, 3,000 men are locked inside a “tent city,” sleeping in bunk beds spaced only a few feet apart. The tents are crawling with insects and the smell of broken, overflowing toilets. This is Willacy County Correctional Center: a physical symbol of everything that is wrong with enriching the private prison industry and criminalizing immigration.

More than 25,000 low-security non-U.S. citizens languish at thirteen private prisons like Willacy under Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) contracts. For years, these for-profit prisons have been able to operate in the shadows, effectively free from public scrutiny. That ends now.

 

Abuse and Neglect

Our report documents the ACLU’s multi-year investigation into the five CAR facilities in Texas. We uncovered evidence of shocking abuse and mistreatment, families torn apart, and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

 

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Bad Policies, Bad Incentives

The second-class prisoners in CAR facilities are trapped at the intersection of three disturbing trends: the national mass incarceration crisis, prison privatization, and the criminalization of immigration. This is the story of how and why things have gotten so bad.

 

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Preventable Tragedy

Jesus Manuel Galindo died of a seizure, alone in an isolation cell at Reeves Detention facility. Jesus had been epileptic for a long time. Guards locked him in solitary after he was hospitalized for a grand mal seizure. In an isolation cell, he suffered two more seizures before the one that killed him. He repeatedly asked staff to adjust his medications and to remove him from solitary so he would not be alone when he seized.

Jesus died in December 2008. When we visited the prison in 2013, little had changed. Prisoners were still reporting terrifying denials of needed medical care.

Jesus Galindo, the epileptic prisoner who died in solitary confinement. Photo courtesy of Galindo family.

 

Read the full story in the report: Warehoused and Forgotten

 

Hidden in the Shadows

The truth about what happens behind the walls of these private prisons often stays hidden. Prisoners are warehoused in facilities located in remote and barren parts of Texas, far from their families -- who often live all over the United States and often cannot afford the long journey to visit. Few have relationships with attorneys who can advocate for them. And since these private prisons often evade the reach of state and federal open records laws, much of what happens behind these walls has gone unseen and unheard by the public.

It doesn't have to be this way. Help us end this injustice. Take Action!

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