Quigley: Our Prisons Shouldn’t Put Profits Before People
Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 Homeland Security Subcommittee appropriations bill to end the use of for-profit prisons to detain immigrants.
“Depriving an individual, undocumented or not, of their freedom is one of the most severe punishments we can levy, and it should never be about profit,” said Rep. Quigley. “This creates a conflict of interest by promoting an industry whose bottom line depends on locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible. If the Department of Homeland Security utilized alternatives to detention we could save taxpayers around $5 million per day. I am proud to introduce this amendment to ensure money that could be spent on helping the American people does not go to corporations that prosper from the suffering of immigrants in detention.”
Below are Rep. Quigley’s full remarks on the amendment, as prepared for delivery:
“My amendment here is simple. It puts people before profits. By ending the use of for-profit prisons to detain immigrants, we can return to our bedrock principles of liberty and justice. Because not only has the fact that private prisons do not deliver on significant savings not changed, but we should not be using detention as a prism for profit.
“Depriving an individual of their freedom, undocumented or not, is one of the most severe punishments we can levy – it should never be about profit. This creates a conflict of interest by promoting an industry whose bottom line depends on locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible.
“Combined with the Trump Administration’s push for additional immigration enforcement, and what we have are lucrative privately run prisons with rising stock prices, private prisons held around 33,000 immigrants, refugees and human trafficking victims per day earlier this year. That’s two-thirds of the entire detained immigrant population. However, letters from the White House suggest private prisons can increase their quotas of people held to 80,000 per day.
“These are the same corporations who have been faulted in the past for the unjust conditions in which detainees have been kept. These are the same corporations in whose prisons detainees have gone for months without access to a doctor. These are the same corporations that rely on the overuse of solitary confinement to house mentally ill detainees. These are the same corporations where, according to top officials on civil rights for Homeland Security during the Obama administration, it is more difficult for detainees to have access to an attorney to argue their cases. And these are the same corporations who stand to gain immensely from the inhumane incarceration of thousands of individuals, perpetuating our national mass incarceration problem.
“It’s time we stop allowing these private prisons to turn people into products, and it’s time we stop needlessly separating families by splitting up children from their parents. Our tax dollars should be used for alternatives to detention, not enriching a handful of shareholders. In fact, if DHS utilized alternatives to detention we could save taxpayers around $5 million per day.
“I call on my colleagues to do the right thing: don’t let any more money – money that could be spent on actually helping the American people, go to corporations that prosper from the suffering of others.”