1. ON THE LIST: PRIVATE PRISONS

Men are dying because of shitty medical care in private prisons.

Hi there, and welcome to THE SHIT LIST’S VERY FIRST EDITION! We’re excited. We’re glad to have you. Here’s what we’re adding to the list.

THE SHIT:
Dozens of men have died because of medical negligence inside prisons that are run by private companies, not the government.

THE BACKSTORY:
In America, there are 11 federal prisons that are run by corporations. These prisons aren’t for everyone — they hold only noncitizens (nearly 23,000 total). Many of the prisoners committed nonviolent crimes.

Privatized prisons are promoted as a way to save taxpayer money. Becauseprivate companies compete to win federal contracts, there’s a strong incentive to run the leanest operation possible. As a result, cost-cutting is king — even when it comes to medical care.

One doctor reported that prison managers asked him to think twice before calling 911 for patients, because of the expense: “They said, you know, ‘Is there a way we can cut this down?’”

THE KICKER:
A prisoner named Nestor Garay.

At 1:30 a.m. in a private facility in Texas, he began groaning in pain. When his prisonmates checked on him, he was unresponsive. And he’d peed himself.

A cellmate asked to have Garay taken to the hospital. Instead, Garay was given anti-seizure medication and put back in his cell. He died of a stroke.

Martin Lopez Cervantes died of cancer after chemotherapy was administered far too late. Pablo Orama died of heart disease after complaining of chest and shoulder pain, and being told to avoid spicy food. And on, and on.

THE FIX:
Okay, a flicker of light at the end of this tunnel. A bipartisan group in Congress is looking for ways to cut back on the number of prisoners in federal custody, to reduce the likelihood of those people ending up in poorly run prisons. That group is called the Colson Task Force.

In the meantime, the ACLU has started a petition encouraging the federal government to phase out all of its contracts with private prison operators.

Problem is, this story is still largely unknown to the public. And the people who are affected most (imprisoned immigrants) don’t have many levers to pull when it comes to influencing government policy.

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