An article published in the Seattle Times on Feb. 26 was the first in any major newspaper in more than a year on the subject of the new Department of Homeland Security prison now nearing completion on the Tacoma Tideflats. The independently owned newspaper deserves kudos for beating to the punch a hometown paper, the News Tribune of Tacoma. But many important issues went unaddressed....
SEATTLE TIMES ARTICLE ON HOMELAND SECURITY PRISON IN TACOMA SKIRTS
By Mark Jensen
February 26, 2004
TACOMA (Washington) -- An article published today in the Seattle Times was the first in any major newspaper in more than a year on the subject of the new Department of Homeland Security prison now nearing completion on the Tacoma Tideflats. The Times article also contains the first -- but certainly not the last -- mention of the facility's name in a major daily: the "Northwest Detention Center."
The independently owned newspaper deserves kudos for beating to the punch a hometown paper, the News Tribune of Tacoma.
A piece by the News Tribune is in the works, however. The Tacoma daily contacted UFPPC and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma Wednesday with the news that reporter Sean Robinson is at work on a soon-to-be-published article.
The Seattle Times deserves praise for publishing its piece, written by reporter Lornet Turnbull. But many important issues went unaddressed.
For example, Thursday's article (see the link below) gives the cost of the Northwest Detention Center as $115 million, 15% more than has been previously reported, but does not comment on this discrepancy.
The Times reports for the first time how much the Correctional Services Corporation, a Florida company whose stock is traded on the NASDAQ (symbol: CSCQ), is to be paid per prisoner ñ "about $121 a day." But the Times has not one word to say about the many lapses, improprieties, lawsuits, and scandals with which the Sarasota company has been associated.
Uncertainty surrounds the size of the new prison, or "contract detention facility," as the Department of Homeland Security calls it. Originally sold to the Tacoma City Council before 9/11 as a temporary holding facility at which prisoners would be held only for a few days, at some point plans changed.
In 2002 newspaper reports spoke of a 500-bed facility. But the Seattle Times now reports, for the first time, that the capacity of the prison will be considerably larger. Thursday's article reports a "capacity to expand by 200 beds," swelling the prison's total capacity to 700.
Many believe, however, that the true number is closer to 800.
The Seattle Times also discloses for the first time the date the facilty is scheduled to "open" -- though that seems like the wrong word. The date: April 14, 2004, a Wednesday.
The Times published two photographs taken by Tom Reese from the inside of the Northwest Detention Center -- but no photos taken from the outside. So readers get no sense of the facility's sinister windowless walls, the newly refurbished dead-end railroad siding that arrives at the prison's gates, or the extensive fencing around the entire property -- features that are absent at the Seattle facility currently in use.
Also unmentioned in the Times are important developments in regional activities of the Department of Homeland Security, among them an enormous new four-story headquarters that is now nearly finished in Tukwila, near the Sea-Tac airport.
The war on terror? The recent round-up of immigrants, and the rampant abuse and violations of the Bill of Rights with which this has been associated? The Seattle Times has apparently never heard of these, much less the fact that there is a vigorous international movement opposing the trend toward the privatization of prisons, of which the Northwest Detention Center is an example.
Critics say that private for-profit prisons provide inherent incentives for the neglect and abuse of inmates. In addition, they raise fundamental moral questions. Should shareholders really be making money on the incarceration of human beings?
In 2003, forty-five Catholic bishops from twelve states signed a statement saying: "We call on all levels of government to refuse to sign new contracts or to renew expiring ones with private prison corporations." They called for "an end to all for-profit private prisons."
If you haven't seen the Homeland Security prison yet, do so soon. It's easy to find at 1623 E. "J" St., only half a mile from Johnny's Dock, a popular restaurant on the Thea Foss Waterway.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma, founded by Mr. Smith, began an intermittent vigil at the Northwest Detention Center on February 19. In beginning the vigil on that date, BORDC-Tacoma noted that February 19 was the 62nd anniversary of Executive Order 9066, under whose authority more than 100,000 citizens of Japanese ancestry were placed in concentration camps, in violation of their rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.
"The Bill of Rights makes no distinction between citizens and non-citizens," Mr. Smith said Thursday. "It speaks only of 'persons.'"
The Seattle Times article:
NEW TACOMA FACILITY TO HOUSE PEOPLE TARGETED FOR DEPORTATION
By Lornet Turnbull
February 26, 2004
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