The awful truth about immigrant detention

Few Americans know about our nation’s system of immigrant detention centers. Each year, the U.S. government locks up roughly 440,000 immigrants in over 200 immigrant prisons. These prisons have grown into a highly privatized, lucrative and abusive industry that profits off misery.

We’re doing everything we can to expose the abuses of the deportation industrial complex. In our new film we explore conditions inside these prisons, exposing substandard medical care, widespread physical and sexual abuse, virtual slave labor working conditions and more. These abuses happen behind closed doors with little to no oversight. Our film, created in partnership with advocates for detainee rights, is shining a light on a particularly dark corner of the American justice system.

There’s no time limit on how long people can be held at immigration detention centers. It’s hard to believe, but immigrants can be locked up indefinitely without a criminal offense or bond hearing. In the film we highlight the case of a Kenyan immigrant, Sylvester, who spent 9 years and 4 months in one of these prisons. Another immigrant describes her time in detention as being “like a legal kidnapping.”

Immigrant prisons are overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Since ICE was created in 2003, there have been 177 confirmed deaths in these prisons. Detainees at these for-profit prisons are often coerced into working for virtually no money. The for-profit companies that run the facilities have all the wrong incentives and a captive workforce at their disposal. The food they provide detainees is frequently so inadequate that detainees feel they have no choice but to work for $1 a day to buy additional food from the commissary, often at inflated prices.

Watch Immigrant Prisons and hear these important stories from former detainees.

The two largest private detention center operators, CCA and Geo Group, got started in the 1980s. In fact, CCA’s very first contract was for locking up immigrants. In the past twenty years, the two companies have made over $12 billion in profits, largely from immigrant detention.

I hope you will join the movement and share Immigrant Prisons with your networks. You can also screen the film for free at schools, houses of worship and community meetings for local media and elected officials through our Brave New Educators program. Together we can bring detained immigrants out from the darkness and provide them with the respect and dignity that we owe to all people.

Thank you,
Robert Greenwald, President
Brave New Films

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