One of the more disconcerting aspects of the growth and use of immigrant detention centers is the enlisting of private prison corporation CCA to handle immigrant detainees. I was discussing Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein's recent immigration story with a friend of mine named Renee Feltz who told me has been doing her own extensive reporting on private rather than federal detention centers.

If you think the WaPo report on substandard medical care in federal immigration facilities is shocking, consider that the already strapped Department of Immigration Health Services was forced to take over health care in a San Diego CCA facility because they were trying to maximize profits by skimping on medical care for detainees. ICE cited CCA for failing to maintain their phone system so that detainees could communicate with legal counsel, when even ICE provides access to lawyers under circumstances described by the Post as less than what "convicted murderers in maximum security prisons" get. A Senate bill introduced in August designed to make private detention facilities more transparent hasn't made it out of committee (I'm also kind of shocked at the main sponsor, but good for him.)

I'm sure that there are "national security" and efficiency arguments that can be made for using detention centers to this degree. The government can argue that people who are detained are less likely to flee, and the usual post-9/11 boilerplate that is used to justify human rights violations of all kinds. There's probably a school of thought that says making these places hell makes immigrants less likely to come back. In the same vein, an immigrant trying to fight deportation might simply accept it if it means he's going to have to remain under such conditions. A typical conservative strategy is to starve government programs by underfunding them, but in this case underfunding immigrant prisons might be seen as a deterrent to immigration itself. Who wants to try to sneak back into the United States for whatever reason if you're just going to end up in one of these places again?

Obviously not all of this is exactly news, but since the Federal government clearly can't afford to do detainment properly or contract to someone who will, it should be considering other options other than throwing people into draconian facilities.

--A. Serwer

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