Biden Ended Contracts with Private Prisons. So One May Turn To House Immigrants

People locked up in the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas have been reaching out for help nearly every day.

The for-profit facility, which houses federal prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing, has been on 24-hour lockdown since a person died there last month. The death followed months of violence targeting both detainees and corrections officers inside the center just 30 miles from Kansas City.

“What we know from people who are detained inside this facility is that it’s become increasingly violent, out of control and that people are fearing for their lives every single day,” said Sharon Brett, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.

In February, two corrections officers went to the hospital with severe injuries after a detainee threw hot water and stabbed one woman and kicked another one. In June, at least a half-dozen more detainees were stabbed. And in August, a detainee named Scott Wilson suffered a brutal beating. He died two days later.

“I have clients who have been in prison,” said Melody Brannon, the federal public defender in Kansas. “They’ve done hard time in really difficult federal prisons around the country. They are terrified to be at CoreCivic because they know their lives are in danger every day.”

The Leavenworth facility is run by CoreCivic, a private prison company that has a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. A spokesman for the company said it’s worked with the marshals for three decades, and it said allegations by the ACLU and the public defenders are designed to put political pressure on the Biden administration.

During his first week in office, President Biden signed an executive order phasing out contracts with private prison operators. The federal contract with CoreCivic and Leavenworth is set to expire in December.

By Carrie Johnson for NPR
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