“This is the fascinating thing about prisons. The power neither conceals itself nor is masked, it shows as ferocious tyranny in the most minimal details.” —Michel Foucault
The private prison industry in the United States has experienced exponential growth in recent years. The market began to grow in the 1980s under the Reagan-Bush administrations, developed throughout the 1990s, and today flourishes due to antiterrorism measures and the hardening of immigration laws. Many organizations for human, political, and social rights have denounced private prisons, stating that they consider these facilities a new form of human exploitation.
Currently in Texas, a border state, there are more than forty private prisons. One singular case is the T. Don Hutto “Family Detention Center,” located in Taylor, Texas, and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA is the largest private jail company in the world with one of the highest stock market values on Wall Street.
T. Don Hutto is the first prison authorized by the state to lodge whole families: men, pregnant women, adolescents, children, women, and even babies. The inmates are typically immigrants who are awaiting resolution of their immigration status.
T. Don Hutto is one of the many facilities that make up this booming industry. The private prison business has its own commercial exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order catalogues, and works with hundreds of partner companies—from architecture and construction firms to plumbers and vendors of food, security equipment and uniforms, to name only a few—that provide each prison with a range of services.
The cell in Regina José Galindo’s America’s Family Prison was rented for $8,000 from Sweeper Metal Fabricators Corp. It was occupied by the artist and her family for a performance that lasted only a limited period of time; it will remain open to the public for two months as an installation at Artpace.
1 Michel Foucault, Un Dialogo Sobre el Poder y otras Conversaciones (Madrid, Spain: Alianza, 2001).
2 “Las Prisiones Privadas para Inmigrantes,” Border Action, http://www.borderaction.org/campaigns3.php?language=sp&articleID=20 (accessed February 2008).
3 “La industria en las cárceles de EEUU: ¿un gran negocio o nueva forma de esclavitud?” ARLAC (Asociacion de Refugiados de Latinoamerica y del Caribe), http://www.arlac.be/2005/esclavitud.htm (accessed February 2008).
4 Michelle Brané, “Detenciones familiares en Estados Unidos,” Migraciones Forzadas Revista, http://www.migracionesforzadas.org/pdf/RMF%2028/39-40.pdf (accessed February 2008).
5 “Prisiones privatizadas en EEUU, modelo de exportación Mazmorras Inc.,” SIEP (Servicio Informativo Ecuménico y Popular), 30 October 2006, http://www.ecumenico.org/leer.php/1108 (accessed February 2008).
6 http://tdonhutto.blogspot.com/ (accessed February 2008).