User-agent: * Allow: / Legal news, political opinion, Satire, and lawyer thinking by Tim Paynter, Attorney at Law: 2010-10-24

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Border Patrol Using “Peep Show” Mobile X-Ray

The US Border Patrol has deployed “see through” mobile X-Ray vans they can use to see into vehicles and houses.  This is the radar technology which allows operators a private “peep show” of body parts underneath clothing which has been the subject of controversy at airports.  You don’t have to worry about agents checking out your bod, though, at least not on purpose.

pickup with drugs
Conservative voices clamor for border security.  Ted Tancredo, running for the governor of the state of Colorado, and Jan Brewer, running for the governor of Arizona, have made national headlines in their anti-immigrant rhetoric.  The U.S. Border Patrol has met the demand for better security, in part, by acquiring mobile X-ray machines placed in vehicles the size of cargo vans and small motor homes. 

The benefits to the government of using a portable machine that allows them a clear picture of the contents in vehicles and buildings is obvious.  Time.  They don’t even have to stop the vehicle to see if the contents are of interest, much less ask for a driver’s license or insurance.  The technology has already resulted in drug busts and the apprehension of undocumented workers being smuggled.  So why object?

When an air traveler consents to a body scan that reveals as much as if he or she were standing in line buck naked, the traveler gets notice with the option of a private body check.  Not so with border control vans.  Have you heard a polite question from your border patrol agent lately?  passengeriii

“Excuse me, mam.  Would you mind if I shine this X-ray machine at your car.  I promise not to pay attention to your tommy knockers.”

The vans have been used as early as August, 2009, and most of us have not been the wiser.  Thus, matters of unreasonable search and seizure were not given a second thought.  Your consent has been presumed.

In the past, the government has been required to get a search warrant in order to gain the level of inspection into buildings and vehicles that this slick device provides.  Since law enforcement does not have to enter the vehicle or premises to inspect it, they may argue no intrusion has occurred.  In fact, inspection can be made without the owner having any idea he got zapped.  The potential for abuse is immense.


A second problem with the Backscatter X-Ray machines is exposure to harmful rays.  Supposedly, it takes 800 blasts from a law enforcement X-Ray gun to equal one hospital X-Ray, the manufacturer claims.  You know the X-Rays, where the radiologist dressed in green disappears behind a lead wall as he flips the “take picture” button.  With 800 of these units planned in the border patrol alone, and thousands possible as the rage catches on with law enforcement, those living in high usage areas could be exposed to 800 blasts fairly quickly. 

The units reportedly require a fair amount of maintenance to keep the level of X-Rays safe.  Devices subject to constant movement, like mobile vans, likely will need even more maintenance.  Don’t worry, though.  As the government contemplates budget cuts and layoffs, you can be sure they would never skimp on maintenance for the “peep show” device.

This technology is so efficient at inspecting private spaces it will be hard to keep it out of the hands of law-enforcement, absent legislation.  Since governors and senators will be able to side-step the inspection, they will have little incentive to pass such legislation.  At the same time, the price of security is a another slice of freedom from the intrusive eyes of Uncle Sam.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

GEO Asks PA For Another Jail Modern Slave Trade

Private Jailers Ask PA For More">Private Jailers Ask PA For More">First published on Technorati, Private Jailers Ask PA For More

GEO, a private company that runs contract prisons, asked a Northampton County Council to support the building of another private prison in Easton, Pennsylvania.  The council voted to move ahead with the project, a decision they could regret for a long time based upon the history of GEO with other facilities.

There is nothing pretty about an ICE bus.

After neighboring landowners voiced concerns over safety, GEO Group Development VP Cloid Shuler said:

“I don't think it's fair to call it a prison. We operate prisons and those are for violent offenders.”

Shuler does not need approval of the county council to build his prison.  He needs the blessing of their finance committee to make it pay. He plans to charge tax payers to incarcerate undocumented workers apprehended through ICE raids.

“This is detention. Detaining people until they get their hearings or be deported to their country of origin or another country.”

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." said Shakespeare.

Let’s rephrase.

“What’s in bullshit? That which wafts a wretched stench by any other name smells so foul.”

The incarcerating of people for profit reeks of the rotting moral flesh of slave traders from centuries past. When it comes to making money, the name “jail”, “prison” and “detention” roll off Shuler’s lips as if the process of holding people against their will in a 150 million dollar facility differs greatly, one from another. In the case of GEO, not only is it one of the world's largest private jailers, it also has one of the worst records of human rights abuses and problems.  Opponents to the proposal may want to check out this link.

Fryer protests at immigration detention center

Shuler failed to mention, according to reports, the 2500 bed facility will “detain” more than just undocumented workers. Only 20% would be held just for immigration violations. The balance of the prisoners would be jailed on additional criminal charges, according to 6 News. Some of the inmates presumably would be over-flow U.S. citizen criminals from over-crowded jails and prisons.

In 2000, the Justice Department sued Wackenhut Corp., the predecessor company to GEO.  As part of the settlement, the company was required to close it's Louisiana juvenile facility.  The head of security plead guilty to charges after beating a 17 year old boy with a broom stick while his hands were cuffed.

GEO Flag

In 2005, the company was forced to close its juvenile facility in Michigan.  It escaped continued prosecution by closing it's doors and leaving the state.

In a 2005 lawsuit, an employee reported that his superior displayed a hangman’s noose in his office and took pictures in his prison uniform donning KKK garb.

At the Val Verde, Texas, facility, four inmates came down with a mysterious illness. Three of the four died. The cause was never determined.

GEO guards were accused of widespread sexual abuse of female inmates in one Texas facility.

Allegations of abuse in the Aurora, Colorado, facility have been made.  At times, inmates disappear into a maze of ICE "sub-holding facilities".  One of the complaints levied against third world countries is the disappearance of persons into unknown jails.

The Texas Youth Commission closed the GEO Texas Coke County Juvenile Correctional Center. Inspectors said it was "filthy" with "unsafe" conditions including feces on walls and fire exits chained shut.

While GEO appears to be forthcoming as they seek favors from the County, they are less than cooperative when being investigated.  GEO forced the Dallas Morning News to submit questions rather than speak with their investigative reporter.   A public office which answers to voters could not get away with those kinds of tactics.  

Immigration protests continue throughout the nation at various sites including the GEO facility at Aurora, Colorado near Denver.  If there is no local police department at the proposed Pennsylvania GEO site, then this is an unwise place to put a jail.

Even Dan Rather got into the act with his investigative piece regarding two prison riots in 2009 in Texas. Inmates were injured and fires set in March of 2009.

Shuler said the prison would employ about 500 people and use about 350 local subcontractors to build the prison. As Americans face overwhelming debt, we are smart enough to know there is no free lunch. GEO charges the government for every person they imprison. They have to compete in the private market for labor and materials. They have to make a profit. At the end of the day, it is another cash cow for private contractors at the expense of the people.

Instead of advising the county council of these matters, Shuler appealed to greed. “One of the most important things I haven't said is that we'll pay property taxes.” he said.

A prior housing development proposed for the property was sacked because it would not provide an adequate tax base, Ron Angle, Northampton County Council President, said.  Angle abstained from voting for the measure but spoke about the tax benefits.  Angle reportedly owns property nearby which could get a value boost as a result of the deal.

According to reports, some of the neighbors remained unconvinced. A local prison, complete with razor wire, prison buses, armed guards and court rooms, was not the kind of neighbor and tax payer some had in mind.

"At the meeting, you're always going to get the best of the best,"  said County Supervisor Jerry Geake to the Morning Call.   "I have absolutely no idea on the downside of them … now, the actual questions have to come."

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