Before September 11, 2001, few Americans had heard of immigration detention, but in fact a secret and repressive prison system run by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service has existed in the country for more than two decades. In "American Gulag", prisoners, jailers and whistle-blowing federal officials come forward to describe the frightening reality inside these INS facilities. Journalist Mark Dow's "on-the-ground" reporting brings to light documented cases of illegal beatings and psychological torment, prolonged detention, racism and inhumane conditions. It is a book which may change the way Americans see their country. "American Gulag" takes readers inside prisons such as the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Corrections Corporation of America's Houston Processing Center, and county jails around the country that profit from contracts to hold INS prisoners. It contains disturbing in-depth profiles of detainees, including Emmy Kutesa, a defector from the Ugandan army who was tortured and then escaped to the United States, where he was imprisoned in Queens, and then undertook a hunger strike in protest.
To provide a framework for understanding stories like these, Dow gives a brief history of immigration laws and practices in the United States - including the repercussions of September 11 and present-day policies. His book reveals that current immigration detentions are best understood not as a well-intentioned response to terrorism but rather as part of the larger context of INS secrecy and excessive authority. American Gulag exposes the full story of a cruel prison system that is operating today with an astonishing lack of accountability.
Mark Dow is a freelance writer and poet whose work has appeared in the Miami Herald, The Progressive, Boston Review, Index on Censorship, Prison Legal News, and numerous literary publications. He is coeditor of Machinery of Death: The Reality of America's Death Penalty Regime (2002).