Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales indicted for criminal conspiracy in private prison profiteering, resulting in prisoner assaults
By Brenda Norrell
WILLACY COUNTY, Texas -- US Vice President Dick Cheney was indicted today for a prison profiteering scheme and charged with abuse of prisoners. Cheney invested millions in the Vanguard Group, an investment management company with interests in the prison companies in charge of detention centers. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was also indicted in the prison profiteering scheme, resulting in ongoing prisoner assaults and at least one murder.
Human rights activists urged a probe into prison profiteering after the private prison corporation GEO Group and CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) began receiving numerous federal contracts to build detention centers. GEO's new contracts included migrant prisons in Laredo, Texas and Jena, Louisiana.
Human rights activists said the fever-pitched racism mounted in the US was induced for the purpose of prison profiteering by US officials reaping enormous profits. The increased arrests of migrants resulted in profits and a long list of new prison construction contracts for the GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut, both with a long history of assaults and murders in prisons.
A Texas grand jury indicted Cheney today and accused him of at least misdemeanor assaults of inmates by allowing inmates to assault fellow inmates. Gonzales was charged with having used his position to stop investigations into assaults committed in a prison for profit in Willacy County, Texas. Both Cheney and Gonzales were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted the GEO Group, on a murder charge in the death of a prisoner days before his release in 2001. The indictment alleged the GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened at the Raymondville facility. A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment in 2006. The Cheney-Gonzales indictment refers to the de la Rosa case.
Human rights activists protested both Raymondville and Hutto prisons in southwestern Texas in recent years. At Hutto, migrant women and children were abused. ICE refused to allow a UN Rapporteur into Hutto.
During the Bush-Cheney regime, prisons of torture and prisons for migrants became synonymous with the name GEO, from Guantanamo to migrant prisons in the south and along the southwest border.
Cheney said Guantanamo was vital in 2005 and detainees could expect to be treated better here than "by virtually any other government on the face of the earth."
Geo was awarded a contract for the continued management of the Migrant Operations Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Nov. 2, 2006. Recently, GEO received a contract for a migrant prison in Jena, La. GEO also received a contract for housing "criminal aliens" in the US, as stated on the GEO website.
GEO's migrant prisons were not restricted to the US. GEO also assumed a management contract in the Campsfield House Immigration Removal Center in England.
GEO was not the only one profiteering. The Wackenhut Corp. was also profiteering from transporting migrants from the border after their arrests. The two companies split in 2003.
All along the border, while GEO was building prisons, GEO's other half, Wackenhut Corp., was profiteering from the arrest of migrants from the borders. The United States Customs and Border Protection agency entered into the contract with Wackenhut Corp., which is now the domestic subsidiary of the U.K.-based security giant Group 4 Securicor, to transport migrants from the borders.
It comes as no surprise that the Vanguard Group is also currently a major shareholder in Halliburton, the longtime war profiteer in Iraq. Cheney's investments in the Vanguard Group are estimated at between $25 and $86 million, since exact numbers have not been released.
While the US filled its prisons with migrants, with a price on their heads, the number of Native American prisoners soared.
The US Department of Justice recently released a study showing that Native American inmates in Indian country jails increased by 24 percent between 2004 and 2007. The figures for Native Americans in all facilities -- tribal, federal and state -- increased 4.5 percent. Suicides, attempted suicides, deaths and escapes were cited as the result of deteriorating prison conditions.
Human rights activists hope the indictments of Cheney and Gonzales are the first of many indictments of the Bush-Cheney administration.