Wackenhut Detention Ordeal

For One Immigrant in Queens, Hunger Strike Continues

Wackenhut, the self-proclaimed "global leader in privatized corrections," is facing lawsuits around the country charging the corporation with abuse of prisoners in some of the 42 correctional facilities it runs. Ten former inmates at a juvenile jail in Texas are suing Wackenhut for failing to prevent sexual abuse there. In Louisiana, a court-appointed investigator cited the company for using tear gas to subdue young inmates. Last year in Florida, Wackenhut was discovered to have paid a $3 million consulting fee to a professor who was serving as a paid member of the state's prison-policy panel.

Meanwhile, in early August Wackenhut reported huge increases in its quarterly earnings, seeing revenue rise 27 percent over last year to some $530.3 million for the most recent quarter. "We are very optimistic about our continued growth in view of our current backlog of 8260 correctional facility beds under development," a company press release quoted its vice chairman, Richard R. Wackenhut, as saying. "Federal and other agencies are expected to issue additional requests for proposals on additional prison privatization projects for over 20,000 additional beds in the coming year." By 2001 the INS anticipates its detention population will grow to 24,000 people at an annual cost of more than $500 million.

It's just this nexus of prison expansion and anti-immigrant sentiment that has ignited interest in detainees among long-standing grassroots organizations, such as CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, the Latino Workers Center, and the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants. "Many of us have been active on prison rights and have come to see a connection, through the booming prison economy, between that and immigrant detention," says Ujju Aggarwal of the Center for Immigrant Families. "And we wanted to let Emmy Kutesa know that he wasn't alone." A demonstration in support of the human rights of immigrant detainees will take place on September 9 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. outside INS district offices at 26 Federal Plaza.

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