In an alarming report released from the Office of Inspector General in September, horrific abuses have been revealed within the walls of the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, a small city in San Bernadino, in southern California. Nooses hanging from detainees’ cells, medical neglect and unjust segregation were the discoveries made in an inspection by the OIG during May-July. It’s no surprise to hear of this neglect of people’s lives within a facility built to create more profits for the capitalist class.
Managed and owned by the GEO Group since 2010, a private, multi-national prison contractor which runs 139 facilities across the U.S. and others in South Africa, the UK and Australia, this facility is operated under contract with ICE as a processing center for immigrants, housing up to 1,940 detainees. During the OIG’s visit, 15 of the 20 cells visited had nooses hanging from vents. One detainee that was interviewed said, “I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical.” There have been at least seven suicide attempts at Adelanto from December 2016 to October 2017. Nationwide, self-inflicted deaths account for four of 20 deaths reported between October 2016 to July 2018. The most recent occurred in July 10, at the Stewart Detention Facility in Georgia.
When two guards were asked why the nooses were not moved, they claimed that the issue was not of high priority. The guards’ actions are in contradiction to the supposed standards that are supposed to be followed within the detention facility. According to ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards, revised in 2016, the following are required:
Environmental health and safety
Activities, for example: Religious practice, telephone access and visitation
These standards are quite evidently just for show and don’t hold any integrity inside these facilities, where actually existing conditions are deplorable. To cite another example: from November 2017 to April 2018, detainees filed 80 medical grievances to GEO staff for not providing urgent care or prescribed, essential medications. Appointments would get canceled due to guards being ‘unavailable’ to walk the detainee from their cell to their appointment. Only two dentists are on staff to provide care for 1,940 people, causing patients to be put on a waiting list for months or even years.
During the investigation, 14 detainees were prematurely thrown into disciplinary segregation. Only seven of them had ever seen a disciplinary panel, and during their trial they were excessively penalized and forbidden from buying or keeping commissary items in their cells.
A broader struggle can be seen with the surrounding community of Adelanto dealing with neglect and disregard from their own local politicians. With the help of the Community Initiatives for Immigrants in Confinement in partnership with the Detention Watch Network, Adelanto community members launched a report called Abuse in Adelanto during 2014-2015. The report not only detailed the abuse going on within the walls of the facility, but also how the local prison economy had hurt the community, promising jobs and development but bringing dependency and the moral desolation of mass incarceration.
A lack of jobs, schools, and low median income have scourged the community since 1992. Mismanagement of funds caused Adelanto’s first high school not to open its doors for two years in 2012 because it was $3.4 million over budget, while renovations for the San Bernardino County Jail were completed on time in 2013 despite being over budget by $25.4 million.
The mismanagement of money going into corporate hands instead of institutions for the people has led the city of Adelanto to become a case study in the parasitic effects of the prison industrial complex on local communities. Adelanto is home to an immigration detention facility, county jail, state prison and a neighboring federal prison that together hold 9,965 people, almost one third of the city’s population.
In 201o, GEO Group acquired the Adelanto Detention Facility contract from the city in July 2010 for $28 million, pledging support for the area’s depressed economy (according to census data, Adelanto’s income per capita is a third of the state average, and its poverty and unemployment rates are some of the highest state-wide). As a result, 100 local residents lost their jobs as guards to downsizing while the contract was being negotiated and the facility was being renovated.
In the summer of 2014, however, workers and residents in the community launched the Defund Detention in Adelanto campaign. Their consistent campaigning led to the termination of a deal between the city and GEO Group to build an additional prison facility, as well as blocking a city plan to build a new jail to house the growing Los Angeles inmate population with the Corrections Corporation of America. Creating a neighborhood-led oversight committee, these organizing efforts helped residents maintain some power over local decisions and prevent further jail expansion. These concessions won by the community demonstrate well the strength we can have when we organize together.
The prison industrial complex in the United States is a scheme by the capitalist ruling class to divide us, answering the poverty and hopelessness created by neoliberal capitalism with prisons, police, and repression, rather than with jobs programs, ecological restoration and public services. Incarcerating thousands of Black and Brown lives each year, the U.S. holds 20 percent of the world’s prison population, while only representing 4 percent of the world’s population. The United States contains a history of creating racist division among the people of this planet to further the drive for profits and class rule and prevent united resistance. It has consistently displaced and maltreated Black and Brown people, from the era of colonialism to the current era of imperialism, mass incarceration, and police brutality.
What goes on within and outside the walls of the Adelanto Detention Facility are atrocious human rights violations. Nobody should be abused or neglected no matter what their legal status is, and certainly not for the “crime” of traveling to another country to escape the poverty, violence and lack of opportunity created by imperialist exploitation. Everyone should have access to well paid jobs or education, not a sea of prisons that are run for profit like in Adelanto, CA. We must organize together and resist, because that’s the only way we can win our rights against this racist capitalist system.