The Death of Immigrants in Privatized Jails

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On February 9, 2016, “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die: The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails” was reported by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! The story sought to expose the harsh realities immigrant prisoners face in the United States. The topic of neglected immigrant prisoners in the United States is significant because it is a violation of human rights and reveals the ethical costs of privatizing prisons. Since March of 2016, the corporate press has ignored the story of “The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails”.

Goodman and Gonzalez’s interview with Wessler focused on the topic of three private companies running eleven immigrant-only prisons. These prisons operate under more relaxed rules and guidelines than the rest of the federal prison system. This allows them to cut costs, which greatly diminishes the quality of healthcare the prisoners receive if they are provided it at all.

This topic of immigrant-only prisons is significant because most people are not aware of what happens inside prisons or the effect they have on society. Most of the immigrants locked up in these private prisons are guilty of illegal reentry to the United States, an act that is normally considered a civil offense. However, since many of these immigrants come on their own to try to establish a life or job on behalf of their family, they do not have any connections in the U.S. to give them legal aid or support. The families of imprisoned immigrants usually are not informed of their loved one’s incarceration. Many go months or years without knowing where their family member is. In addition, the healthcare workers hired at the private prisoners are usually inexperienced to save costs. They are responsible for more than they are qualified to be held accountable for. Over one hundred Mexican immigrants have died in the past decade in these prisons due to malpractice.

The corporate news coverage of “The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails” has been scant. The rhetoric from corporate media does not usually stray far from “illegal immigrants are bad because they cross the border illegally.” This type of circular thinking does not face the real problems within our immigration systems. Failing to examine individual stories, it tends to dehumanize these immigrants. . For example, Fox News published a bias-confirming piece describing the “wildly disproportionate number of murderers, rapists and drug dealers are crossing into the U.S,” yet admitted there are actually no comprehensive studies proving this claim. This depicts how immigrants simply trying to make a living are being targeted as criminals. Other media outlets, like CNN, have released articles exposing the costs of incarcerating immigrants and the statistics that these immigrants are, in fact, not more likely to commit crimes. This illustrates how immigrants being accused of atrocities such as murder and rape, are no more likely to commit a crime than the average American.

Private prisons have been discussed in the mainstream media, especially from economic standpoints, but not in the context of immigrant prisoner treatment. Independent investigators like Goodman, Gonzalez, and Wessler have exposed the unethical conditions immigrant prisoners are forced to be in. The public has a right and a need to know of the unnecessary deaths and inhuman conditions immigrants are facing.


Wessler, Seth Freed. “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die.” The Nation, January 28, 2016,

Gonzalez, Juan and Goodman, Amy. “This Man Will Almost Certainly Die”: The Secret Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails.” 09 Feb 2016. Democracy Now!,

Noble, Andrea. “With federal cooperation, illegals won’t set foot on free U.S. soil after mass prison release”. Washington Times, 11 Oct 2015              

Student Researchers: Alexandra Castillo (California Maritime Academy) and Justin Lascano, (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Nolan Higdon (California Maritime Academy)