LatinaLista — Outside of Mississippi, Sunday's prison riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez has hardly been noticed in the media. Yet, in this election season, it deserves more attention because it deals with one of the defining political issues of the presidential campaign — immigration.
[caption id="attachment_17990" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Smoke billows from the Adams County Correctional facility in Natchez, Mississippi after inmates set a fire in the courtyard."][/caption]
On Sunday, a fire and riot broke out at the correctional facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). For anyone who has advocated for undocumented immigrants, CCA is a familiar company. They operate a number of facilities specific to housing undocumented immigrants — such as the Mississippi facility.
The Adams facility houses 2,500 low-security inmates. A spokeswoman for the CCA said that the majority of the inmates are there because they came back into the country after being deported and there were some inmates, again, according to the CCA, who had also been convicted of other crimes. Yet, if everyone is considered low-security, then it should be assumed that none of the inmates are incarcerated for hardcore crimes like murder, rape, etc.
The official explanation for the riot is that it was either a gang fighting among themselves or two rival gangs fighting for control. About 300 inmates participated in the riot where 19 people were injured and one young CCA guard was beaten to death. That left 2,200 inmates on the sidelines watching.
In the past, CCA has been found guilty of multiple offenses when it comes to the maintenance of the facilities and the treatment of detainees/inmates by their employees. No one is saying whether unrest erupted over prison conditions and until some of these inmates speak to their lawyers and/or families, the public will never know the exact truth.
But at this point, it doesn't matter the cause of the riot. It's the fact that a little over 2,000 people are behind bars at the Adams facility, and others like it around the country, for no other reason than they tried to return to the United States.
Are these prisoners returning to the US because they are in gangs and want to deal in drugs or gun trafficking? Hardly. Are these men behind bars because, though the economy sucks, it's better than where they're from? It depends but we know Mexicans aren't thinking that way anymore.
The most likely answer as to why these inmates would risk committing a crime by coming back into the United States is because they're reuniting with their families.
Fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers are guilty of wanting to be with their families because being deported isn't sending these people 'home' — it's sending them into exile away from their loved ones.
Chances are some of these men may have accepted an offer to 'self-deport.' But the reality of being separated from family was harder to bear than they imagined and so they find themselves behind bars, but closer to their families.
Though it's become cliche to say that the nation's immigration system is broken, this is a perfect example of how the country ignored undocumented immigration in this country for so long that trying to enforce something now is seen only as punitive and heartless.
Yet, the most horrific part of this story, in addition to the needless loss of life and injuries, is that people, who were never by nature criminals or committed criminal acts, are forced to act that way now given their treatment and conditions in these correctional facilities. Obviously, separating populations of non-criminals with criminals is not a high priority for the CCA, no matter how minor the crime.
But it never has been a priority. It's been about turning a profit and in that regard the CCA has always achieved their goals. In the process, our broken immigration system, which fuels CCA's revenue growth, is creating more deadly riot conditions where needless deaths will happen and a whole group of people, who never were criminals in the traditional sense of the word, consider themselves as such the longer they spend in these facilities.
Pretty soon, it won't just be about how to fix our broken immigration system but how to either rehabilitate or deal with a class of criminal of this nation's own needless making.