UPDATE: On Friday Clinton reportedly told Black Lives Matter leaders that she will put an end to private prisons, although articles about today’s meeting did not indicate whether her campaign would stop accepting contributions from the private prison lobby.
Focusing on growing concerns that private prison lobbyists have been collecting contributions to support the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a member of immigration rights group United We Dream Action interrupted the Democratic presidential front-runner during remarks she was making at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s gala tonight in Washington, D.C., both POLITICO and Buzzfeed reported.
Clinton was at the event to present an award to celebrity chef José Andrés. As she spoke, according to reports, Juan Carlos Ramos held a sign that read “Hillary for immigrants in prisons.” Ramos also told Buzzfeed that he chanted the following: “Hillary we’re watching. My deportation will be your funding.”
Ramos was soon escorted from the event, and POLITICO wrote that after Clinton presented the award to Andrés, emcee Roselyn Sanchez said, “That was real intense, my Puerto Rican temper would be like ‘excuse me?’”
All reports said that Clinton did not publicly acknowledge Ramos’ chants, although about two hours later, her campaign’s Twitter profile posted the following video of a young boy asking Clinton about prisons and how her campaign would help “fix the prison problems.” The video clip did not specifically address the private prison issue Ramos was protesting. It appears to be a recorded tape that was filmed when Clinton was interviewed by the Rev. Al Sharpton in late September.
An important question from a young man: “Can you fix the prison problems?” https://t.co/yDCR348i5G
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 9, 2015
The Clinton campaign also tweeted out a photo of Andrés and Clinton before the award introduction:
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) October 8, 2015
Previous to that tweet, the campaign shared Clinton’s “Basta” (“Enough”) tagline, both in English and in Spanish.
In a statement, Ramos said this: “Our message to Hillary Clinton is simple: immigrant youth do not trust you. It is time to drop the prison money and stand with our community — you can’t have it both ways,” he said. “Each dollar of private prison money accepted by the Clinton campaign undermines her pro-immigrant policy promises, and our community will not be fooled.” Several tweets from the event added more details about the protest:
The United We Dream Action Twitter profile shared several tweets, including a video from Ramos:
— UnitedWeDream.org (@UNITEDWEDREAM) October 9, 2015
To coincide with Ramos’ protest, United We Dream Action also launched an online campaign, where it calls for the Clinton campaign to “drop the prison money.” Part of the petition reads as follows: Hillary Clinton says she supports immigrant families yet still receives large campaign contributions from lobbyists for private prison corporations that profit off of the mass incarceration of people of color. You have to be pretty dirty to be in the kind of business that makes money by keeping people locked up. Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group are both THAT dirty. These companies own and operate hundreds of jails, including immigrant detention centers and lobby for tough laws that target communities of color that land them behind bars. Oh, and two of Hillary Clinton’s big funders happen to be prison company lobbyists. Other Democratic candidates had already spoken about private prisons. In September, Bernie Sanders introduced the Justice Is Not for Sale Act. When he presented that act, Sanders said this in a statement: “Study after study after study has shown private prisons are not cheaper, they are not safer, and they do not provide better outcomes for either the prisoners or the state.”
Hours after the Ramos protest with Clinton, Martin O’Malley tweeted the following:
I did not allow private prisons in Maryland. I would not allow private prisons in our country either. — Martin O’Malley (@MartinOMalley) October 9, 2015
In July, O’Malley’s prison reform plan included a section on private prisons:
There are approximately 130 private prisons in the United States. They house nearly half of all immigrant detainees, in addition to six percent of the state and 16 percent of the federal prison population. These facilities earn the private prison industry $3.3 billion in annual revenue, backed by nearly $25 million in lobbying over the past 25 years. This includes industry lobbying to protect perverse incentives, the strict enforcement of sentencing and immigration laws, and contracts that require correctional facilities and immigration detention centers to remain full even when crime is falling.
As president, Governor O’Malley will: Phase Out Federal For-Profit Prisons. This includes closing for-profit immigration detention centers, while using alternatives to detention in the immigration context whenever possible.
A Clinton speech in April covered a lot of points for her prison reform platform, but no specific mention of private prisons.
Private prisons have been the target of immigrant rights activists for years, as this 2012 video from the now-defunct Cuéntame organization explains: The Cuéntame video led to a longer 30-minute documentary, produced by Brave New Films, new media company that focuses on progressive issues: Stories and studies from 2011 also focused on the rise of private prisons and its implications.
Featured image via United We Dream Action’s Twitter.