Corrections Corporation of America or CCA is the largest owner of privatized correction and detention centers in the USA. With a total of 63 facilities and a capacity of 67,000 beds in 19 states, CCA specializes in inmate services for the federal government. Its motto is “Excellence in Corrections”.
In the summer of 2006 the T. Don Hutto Residential Center (owned by CCA) opened its doors in Taylor, Texas. T. Don Hutto was originally a privately- owned state prison, converted or “remodeled” to hold illegal immigrants seeking asylum, ending the catch and release program of the past, it houses about 375 prisoners, approximately 200 of which are children. Many inmates are of Hispanic origin but reportedly include large numbers of Africans, Asian and Europeans. CCA will receive 2.8 million dollars for housing these inmates.
A new shadow has formed over these detention centers, with emerging allegations of child abuse, shady government contracts, and absolute human rights violations. The ACLU has filed suit against Michael Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 10 children detained at the center, for the violation of the Flores vs. Meese law requiring minimum standards for living conditions, housing and release of minors. Prison officials maintain that inmates are treated humanely.
Other voices in this battle say the inmates are prisoners in a corporate government-subsidized concentration camp. They allege the conditions children live in are inhumane, such as cramped cells in which toys and food are not allowed, and that medical treatment is rare or nonexistent. They are forced to wear prison jumpsuits, not their personal clothing. Protestors at the site claim the children are malnourished and without proper physical exercise. CCA officials state the children are allowed a single hour per day of outside playtime. The rest of their time in spent in lock-down, confined to their cells. Only two people are allowed per cell during the night, separating many large families and preventing parents from comforting their children. As in any “prison” the rights of privacy are virtually nonexistent. The children paint the nightmare scenario of childhood imprisonment with crayon drawings such as a drawing of the American flag with the words “please help us” scrawled between the red and white stripes or the words “Help! I hate this place!” written in large bubble letters.
Several protests have been staged at the facility and they seem to have been somewhat effective, as reports in March state the children are to be released into the custody of family members within the United States. Suits filed by the ACLU are pending at this time, as are the futures of the detention center and the families detained there.
Jay Johnson Castro of Del Rio, a veteran protestor who has completed three, thirty-five mile walks from the Capitol complex in Austin, Texas to the detention center was quoted, “As far as I’m concerned, this is a showdown of American democracy and American tyranny”. This author agrees.