Pho to by Lo u is Du bose Antonio district, which encompasses a 300-mile stretch of border, face one of the highest bonds in the nation. While the average bond in California is $2,000 and the Lower Rio Grande Valley requires $3,000, detainees in Laredo must post $7,500 before they are released. Or, they must retain an attorney to request a bond-reduction. Mexican immigrants are not incarcerated, except in unusual circumstances, Saenz said. Those not suspected of violating criminal laws, such as smuggling aliens or drugs, are repatriated at the bridge. Only Central Americans are routinely detained. OTMs, other than Mexicans, the INS calls them. The Laredo Processing Center is an OTM facility. The building is designed to lower personnel costs. Seven or eight guards can monitor the activity of 210 prisoners. CCA’s contract specifies that guards are to receive 160 hours of training, but company and INS officials, interviewed in Laredo in June, said guards receive 40 hours of training followed by another 40 hours of on-the-job training. Employees earn about $14,000 per year, half of what INS detention officers earn in similar situations. Inside, beyond a waiting room and Patrick Hughes the offices of the CCA and INS staffs, are 46,000 square feet of detention space chilled down by the best air conditioning that the U.S. has to offer. Four dormitories are divided among INS prisoners: adult males, adult females, adult females with children and unacPrisoners contracted out from U.S. Bureau of Prisons occupy a fifth dorm. Detainees are allowed one hour of exercise per day in a small fenced concrete recreation area. A small library includes a large number of English titles and hundreds of Spanish photo-novelas. Married couples apprehended together are allowed one supervised hour each day to talk across a table. Meals are served from carts in each dormitory. With 110 inmates in late July, the Laredo center was quiet and clean. Beds were made, floors waxed. Volunteers from the dorms worked for an extra serving at mealtime alongside staff cooks in a gleaming kitchen. There were more electronic watchmen than CCA personnel. Cameras suspended from high ceilings scanned the detention areas and microphones detected changes in noise levels where detainees are housed. Much of the facility was visible from the central control “bubble” where one guard electronically unlocked and locked doors as staff members called in requests by hand-held radios. On the west side of the building, close to the central-control bubble, three ten-by-six administrative cells are used to isolate detainees accused of violating the rules, CORRECTIONS Corporation of America is considered the leader in the national swing toward the privatization of prisons, but the sign in front of the Laredo detention center the letters CCA on a black panel is modest and reveals little of their considerable ambitions. The four-year-old company’s aggressive expansion program has resulted in eight pending projects, four of which are in Texas. If awarded contracts for the new facilities in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, that will add around $47,000,000 to CCA assets, and make Texas its favorite state. Even if some of those deals don’t pan out, their recently-opened Paris office will be exploring the many international opportunities for privatization. The largest of the nouveau “Jails Are Us” corporations, CCA claims that it “merges proven principles of free enterprise with the highest standards of correctional practice” and refers to its management as being made up of people “motivated by private sector factors and not hampered by bureaucracy and politics.” Private sector factors, of course, have a good deal to do with private profit. CCA has gone public and although currently operating in the red, those losses refer mainly to the costs of expansion the prisons themselves are turning a profit. And each quarter’s P&L statement shows a smaller loss. The Tennessee-based corporation spent three-quarters of a million dollars on marketing last year in its attempt to overcome opposition to privatization. In addition to hiring lobbyists, they utilize their considerable political connections \(company chairman Thomas W. Beasley is former head of the Tennessee Repubto convince legislators that privatization is the answer. They even succeed in getting magazines such as Newsweek to publish ecstatic articles like the one in the June 29th issue, in which CCA’s Bay County Florida county jail is extolled as an “upbeat hoosegow,” and serious questions about privatization are glossed over. Obviously eager to try anything, the company’s present nine facilities include county jails, work camps, juvenile delinquent centers and two processing centers for illegal aliens in Houston and Laredo. Whatever the type, one of the hallmarks and main selling points of a CCA-managed prison is the use of sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment. This technological approach reduces the need for many workers, reportedly lowering the cost of running a prison. And CCA says that it can build prisons faster and a lot cheaper than a governmental agency can. Since the U.S. is imprisoning people at one of the highest rates in the world, the cost of all this incarceration will be very important to our economy. Or as the CCA prospectus puts it: “Statistics confirm corrections is a growth industry.” D.C. Jails Are Us 10 AUGUST 14, 1987
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.