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corporate dominance | prisons & prisoners

Moving on Up

Geo group to move from Tideflats Tarpits location to prime Space-A Office space.
Russell Guards guests outside new location at the Russell Building
Russell Guards guests outside new location at the Russell Building
Tacomans are responding with varying degrees of joy and outrage to news that the Northwest Detention Center will be moving from the Tacoma tide flats to Russell Investments headquarters in downtown Tacoma.

Insider sources have confirmed that Florida-based private prison corporation the GEO Group has plans to expand its prison for immigrants from a proposed 1,000 beds to more than 4,000 - a move that would have been too costly at the current location.

GEO Group is paid $100 a day by federal officials for every prisoner under its watch. "This is a bold move," said GEO Group officials in a public announcement. "But we consider this a win-win for our company, the City of Tacoma, and our guests."

GEO Group officials say they will save money and headaches by converting exercise facilities, meeting rooms, office banks, dining facilities and other office amenities currently enjoyed by Russell employees for use by guests.

"Guests" is a nice word for prisoner.

"Russell employees enjoyed the best that corporate America has to offer," said one GEO Group official. "Now our guests will live in a facility that would make most corporate moguls drool. We hope that by providing our guests with some of the same luxuries offered to corporate middle managers, we'll see a decline in complaints about abuse, neglect, inadequate healthcare, human rights violations, as well as address the problems associated with our guests missing family, friends and loved ones."

Currently, GEO Group officials are determining whether or not office cubicles can be converted for use as secure detainment cubbies - with hopes of expanding capacity even further.

"If we can secure cubicles and fit two or three guests in each cubicle, we could expand our capacity to more than 8,000," said a GEO Group spokesperson. "I like to imagine our guests in cubicles, playing money-market manager, juggling mutual funds, drafting stock portfolios. I think it could be really fun for them."

City officials, meanwhile, are working to determine how this proposal would affect plans to develop an international financial services district in the immediate vicinity of the would-be detention center.

"There are some traffic and safety issues," said one city planner. "But at least the building won't be vacant. Government checks are dependable. And it could lend an aire of excitement to the financial services district. We hope that the presence of the detention center will add a bit of a spark to the sometimes dull corporate lifestyle. At the very least it will give people something new to talk about during their coffee breaks."

Local activists, meanwhile, are planning a series of protests in hopes of stopping the corporate juggernaut from expanding its facility yet again. Factions of anarchist teenagers and junior college students have already put a call out for a rally in mid June.

"We're tired of these fat cats thinking they can just do whatever they want," said one local student, who calls himself Exile. "My dad works for Russell as a stock analyst and I hate him for his indifference. I'm so mad, I'm thinking about painting the Prius he bought me with a slogan - 'None of us are free until all of us are free.' If tahat doesn't work, I'm moving out of his basement and starting a commune in Orting.

"We hope that if we make enough noise, something will change. My band Dangerous Seagull is going to have an awareness concert," the student goes on to say. "If that doesn't work, we'll just keep chanting our slogans louder, beating our chests, waving signs and distributing literature until all these conservative assholes like my dad wake up. And when they finally do wake up, I'll be standing there with a smile.

"Then I'm going to get totally wasted."

Understaffed support organizations such as One Hope, in turn, are working 10 to 12-hour days to help current detainees find legal counsel, raise funds for families who have lost sole income providers, end human rights abuses, and change what they describe as unjust laws that allow companies such as the GEO Group to profit from a sort of government-sponsored prison subsidization orgy.

"We're exhausted," says One Hope spokesperson Jane McCall. "We're battling the most well-funded federal law enforcement agency on earth, and no one seems willing to help. We need people. We need money. We need prayers. We need legislators to grow some balls. We don't need any more pamphlets or news stories that reinforce stereotypes - like all prisoners are criminals. God I'm tired. ..."

Then McCall starts sobbing.