Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Monday, November 2, 2009

Profiteering from misery: Alaskan Natives' migrant prison

Profiteering from misery: Alaskan Natives' private migrant prison for profit is disturbing trend in violation of the traditional teachings of Native Americans

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo: San Xavier land/Photo Brenda Norrell

TUCSON -- Native Americans say the disturbing trend of profiteering from foul and abusive private migrant prisons by American Indian Nations violates traditional teachings to honor the sacredness of life and all humanity.

The San Xavier District of the Tohono O'odham Nation has planned a migrant prison in secret for years. Recently, outcry from neighbors at Sahuarita, Ariz., halted the plan. However, a second site selected in secret is east of Three Points, Ariz. and has not been made public.

Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham who puts out water for migrants against the wishes of the Tohono O'odham government, is among those opposing the migrant prison.

"The Tohono O'odham Nation is anxious to take blood money from the Department of Homeland Security. Shamefully, we who were once oppressed are now the willing oppressors," Wilson said.

The residents of Sahuarita and city officials of the City of Green Valley, including the mayor, were opposed to the prison. David Garcia and Wilson, both Tohono O'odham, met officials at the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting on May 12, 2009 and opposed the prison.

Jose Matus, Yaqui and director of the Indigenous Alliance without Borders/Indigena Alianza sin Fronteras, points out that many of those arrested by the US Border Patrol, and dying in the Sonoran Desert, are Indigenous Peoples from southern Mexico and Central America. They are desperate for food and jobs after being forced off their lands by multi-national corporations. An increasing number of the dead are Mayan women, walking with their children.

Meanwhile in Montana, the private security firm American Police Force is under a state Attorney General probe, after masquerading as the police force in Hardin, Montana, a town with a long history of racism and attacks on American Indians. American Police Force is linked to Texas-based CorPlan Corrections, which is pitching the private prison to Tohono O'odham and other Indian Nations.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was indicted in Texas for prison profiteering. Cheney invested in the Vanguard Group, which profits from private prison contractor GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut, which split into GEO and Wackenhut Transportation.)

The Vanguard Group reported $1.24 trillion in assets, in mutual funds, in 2009, with global offices, including offices in Scottsdale, Arizona and Valley Forge, Penn. Vanguard Group is among the top investors in Corrections Corporations of America, CCA, operating private prisons in Arizona and throughout the United States.

Wackenhut Transportation, owned by G4S, currently has a contract to transport detained and arrested migrants in buses at the Arizona border. The buses constantly flow from the border to Tucson. Aso, at the Arizona border, Elbit Systems, the Israeli contractor of the Palestine Apartheid Border, was subcontracted by the border wall profiteer Boeing for spy apparatus on the Arizona border.

In another twist, there's an Israeli/US border prison connection. US based Emerald Corrections was granted a prison contract in Israel. Israel’s government awarded a 22year contract to a consortium of Africa-Israel Investments, Minrav Holdings Ltd and Emerald Correctional Management to finance, design, build and operate the country’s first private prison at Be’er Sheva. Emerald operates the prison at San Luis, Arizona, on the US/Mexico border and others in Texas.

Private prisons, packed with migrants, were quickly built in Texas and along the Southwest border during the Bush administration. American Indians continue to be imprisoned at a disproportionate rate and receive longer prison terms than non-Indians, according to the ACLU. While the abuses in private prisons continue, Cheney has not been prosecuted.

Already, Alaskan Natives are in the private prison profiteering business, according to New York Times, citing the abuses today from a filed complaint of a migrant detention center in New York. Mildew, frigid temperatures and hunger were repeated complaints.

"In vivid if flawed English, it described cramped, filthy quarters where dire medical needs were ignored and hungry prisoners were put to work for $1 a day," New York Times reported.

A subsidiary of Ahtna Inc., an Alaska Native regional corporation, Ahtna Technical Services Inc., operates the Varick Street Detention Facility with the help of a Texas subcontractor.

Ben Carnes, Choctaw prison rights activist, was surprised by the news of Native-run prisons. "Wow. I always thought that if the First Nations were in the prison industry, they would manage it as a positive advancement in corrections, instead of just another stinking jail."

After viewing a photo of an outdoor migrant detention center on the Tohono O'odham Nation, often described as "The Cage," Carnes said, "The people cannot keep ignoring how the US imposed tribal council system is operating before they end up in those dog cages!"

Read the article below from the New York Times.

Corrupt prison hustlers linked to Tohono O'odham prison:
(Link to prison hustle in Choctaw and Chickasaw lands)

New York Times: Immigrant Jail Tests U.S. View of Legal Access
New York Times
Published: November 1, 2009
A startling petition arrived at the New York City Bar Association in October 2008, signed by 100 men, all locked up without criminal charges in the middle of Manhattan.
Daniel I. Miller, a former detainee at the Varick Street center, complained of abuses there. "These people have no rules," he said.
In vivid if flawed English, it described cramped, filthy quarters where dire medical needs were ignored and hungry prisoners were put to work for $1 a day. Read article:
A subsidiary of Ahtna Inc., an Alaska Native regional corporation, runs an unusual immigrant detention facility in New York City under a $79 million, three-year contract with the federal government.
Ahtna Technical Services Inc. operates the Varick Street Detention Facility with the help of a Texas subcontractor. The jail houses up to 250 adult male aliens who face deportation for various reasons.
The Obama administration cites the jail as a model for the way legal services are provided to detainees. But the New York City Bar Association says detainees are frequently denied counsel and live under harsh conditions.
Ahtna has about 1,200 shareholders.
Relevant Documents:
Contract with Homeland Security for the operation of the Varick Federal Detention Processing Facility

ACLU: Racial profiling and prison sentences of American Indians
"Indian political participation is further diminished by the disproportionate number of tribal members disfranchised for commission of criminal offenses. There is a pattern of racial profiling of Indians by law enforcement officers, the targeting of Indians for prosecution of serious crimes, and the imposition of lengthier prison sentences upon Indian defendants. These injustices result in the higher incarceration of Indians and dilute the overall voting strength of Indian communities." (OCt. 14, 2009)

US Detention Facilities:

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