Monday, August 04, 2008

Welcome to our Country

The above video is from the New York Times, a companion piece to an article published back in May. It follows the sad case of Boubacar Bah, a tailor from Guinea who lived here in Brooklyn, and worked at a West Village boutique. After a Kafkaesque immigration experience, he ended up in a detention center in New Jersey. For unexplained reasons, he received a skull fracture, but was detained afterwords for 15 hours in shackles before an ambulance was called. His lawyer, his family and his friends were never told about any of this until he had already been in the hospital for five days. By that point he was in a coma – he died 4 months later.

The detention center is run by a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a firm ‘set up in 1983 in Nashville by a group of investors that included a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party...’: here's more from an article in the LRB:

‘…CCA describes itself as the ‘nation’s largest provider of outsourced corrections management’, with 70,000 inmates and 16,000 staff. Its website speaks proudly of ‘similarities in mission and structure’ with the US army and makes a special appeal to veterans in search of work: ‘How will you make the transition from military to civilian life? CCA features a paramilitary structure: a highly refined chain of command, and policies and procedures that dictate facility operations.’

Transparency is not one of those policies and procedures. On the contrary: according to Dow, CCA ‘has warned its shareholders of the dangers of public scrutiny’. So it’s no surprise that CCA still hasn’t explained how Bah fell, or why he was shackled and left untreated for 15 hours afterwards. US immigration officials haven’t said anything either. Indeed, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] operates in almost perfect opacity: it’s not obliged even to keep track of deaths among detainees, much less to report them publicly. When an immigrant dies in custody, the recorded cause of death can be as vague and tautological as ‘unresponsiveness’ – something the ICE knows all about.…’

The stock of CCA (NYSE symbol CXW) closed up 32 cents today, at $28.74. It’s a high for the year.