The last prison facility I worked at was the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona. It is still run by Corrections Corporation of America, better known as CCA, contracted to house ICE detainees for hearings and removal from the country. I primarily worked the night shift. I already had experience working for state corrections and had left because I simply didn’t have the patience to listen to grown men whine about how terrible it was and keep my mouth shut (imagine that!). I took the job when the full-time EMS job I’d sought didn’t pan out. I had often heard my conservative counterparts rave about how perfect an idea private corrections was, so when I was offered the job I took it eagerly. A few things were quite noticeable to me from the get-go: first of all, they didn’t fingerprint me. They didn’t ask me if I had a fingerprint clearance card, either. They asked permission to do a background check on me but never asked me about anything they found in it. I did absolutely no testing for them the way I had in state corrections (such as the MMPI, which measures your personality). The “academy” was no academy at all. I was in a training class with about thirty other people, some of them I knew from the start were only there because the company needed warm bodies to fill uniforms.
Fast forward to about three months after I finished their training. It’s right around 0200 (that’s two in the a.m.) and I’m driving a perimeter truck with a shotgun. I have the only hard rock radio station in Southern Arizona on. Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice being played over the airwaves. I turned up the volume and heard, “…yeah, I’m an inmate at an ICE detention facility in Eloy and I just wanted to say…”
That was all I needed to hear. I slammed on the brakes, got on the radio and told my lieutenant exactly what I’d heard. No inmate phone would have been able to call a radio station; inmates are only allowed to call numbers approved prior to the call to be sure they’re not going to call a victim. Plus, it’s 0200. All inmates are locked in their cells. The facility is packed to capacity and nobody but the officers are up and about. An inmate somewhere in that facility had a cell phone.
Unless you’ve worked in corrections, you cannot understand how much damage an inmate can do with a cell phone. Officers weren’t even allowed to bring cell phones inside the gates. They can call other felons they are prohibited from having contact with, coordinate delivery of all manner of contraband items (narcotics and weapons among them), give sensitive information about officers to dangerous people unimpeded, plan an escape, or – and I believe this to be the worst, even worse than jeopardizing my personal safety – contact victims to torture them further. Cell phones are strictly banned at jails and prisons across America. Yes, it was a very bad thing that an inmate had a cell phone. The next morning it was found in pieces being hidden by four different inmates. They’d had it for a week. Were I to describe anything else I know I would be treading the line between legal and illegal disclosure.
During my time at that facility, I came to realize that private corrections is quite possibly the worst idea a human being could have conceived (with the exception of communism and the atomic bomb). Officers caught bringing contraband such as narcotics and weapons or even porn, or those caught having sex with inmates would have been arrested on the spot if they’d been working for state. Not so in private corrections. You see, the arrest of an officer looks bad and has nearly guaranteed potential to cause a sharp drop in stock value for the company. Officers I knew who were caught bringing in dangerous narcotics, weapons, and other contraband items, and those caught having sex with inmates, were merely fired and walked out of the facility. At least two openly bragged to me and others about having gotten their jobs despite having done time in federal prison for aiding human smugglers (a direct consequence of not fingerprinting applicants or conducting FBI background checks). I worked with officers who had no business being officers because of physical limitations or an extreme lack of intelligence. Such facilities are not safe, neither for officers or staff.
As much as I loathe private corrections, however, I am stunned at the willful stupidity of the local media in the most recent episode of the SB 1070 saga. Here’s the report:
(It’s important to note that the footage you see is NOT the Eloy facility that the report is discussing. It’s another facility entirely.)
Okay…just a few things. Number one, you would think that a major media outlet would know the role of a lobbyist. They lobby for legislation that favors the interests of their cause or business. Hence the term lobbyist. They do not sell services to potential clients, nor do they negotiate contracts with said clients. They lobby congressmen to pass laws that would favor their industry. Neither of the two connected to CCA as lobbyists for private corrections would have had anything to do with pushing this legislation to further CCA’s interests. Which brings me to number two…the facility is ALWAYS full. The biggest problem they have is not having enough room (at least the way they see it; I personally would say they have much bigger issues). There were times when inmates were illegally stacked three to a cell because ICE didn’t have anywhere else to put them and the facility had no room left. SB1070 would only have exacerbated the problem. Unless they had begun building a new facility, which is no small undertaking and costs billions of dollars, it cannot be proven that CCA saw this as a boon to their business.
Number three, you have to bear in mind that many immigration detainees don’t go to those kind of facilities. Most are allowed to remain free and, when deported, are ordered to self-deport (often they refuse to obey the order). In those cases they never see the inside of an ICE-contracted facility. SB1070 would not have produced nearly enough bodies to justify lobbying efforts from CCA to pass the legislation.
As for the claim that Brewer is making up stories about decapitated bodies being found, CBS 5 is saying they called the ME’s offices for all of the counties along the border. They say they were told that no such bodies have been reported to them. What CBS 5 won’t tell you is that, often, without actually going and looking at the records or requesting a specific record, no medical examiner’s office is going to offer up information like that. There are times you may get someone on the phone who either isn’t allowed to speak on such claims or doesn’t actually know. So, was there a case reported recently? Likely not.
The general public doesn’t realize that they’re being quietly hoodwinked by the media. They’re still buying the MSM’s story, though. CBS 5 is making a mountain out of a molehill because as good liberals it’s their job to do so.