Why Prison Health Is a Hidden Crisis — and What Langeloth Is Doing About It

Among the federal homeland security laws passed in the years following 9/11 is Operation Streamline, a measure designed to increase penalties on immigrants caught in the United States illegally. Since the operation began in 2005, immigrants found without proper documentation automatically face criminal charges and time in prison. Unsurprisingly, immigration incarceration rates are up — roughly double what they were 10 years ago — and it costs taxpayers about $2 billion a year to house around 400,000 undocumented immigrants.

To meet the government's demand for immigrant incarceration facilities, private companies have stepped in to provide services. Two companies in particular, CCA and Geo Group, took in hundreds of millions of federal dollars in one year alone to house undocumented immigrants.

How are CCA and Geo Group doing at providing basic services to the populations in their care? Not well, say a group of Jesuits in New Orleans who question whether the health care (or lack thereof) in privately operated immigration detention centers is in violation of international human rights standards. The Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation is funding the Jesuits, to the tune of $157,000 over a three-year period, to investigate health-care availability in CCA and Geo Group detention centers and to advocate for the basic health rights of immigrants being housed in the companies' facilities. (Read Langeloth President Scott Moyer's IP profile.)

The stated goals of the Jesuit Social Research Institute of Loyola University, New Orleans, center around bringing social justice to the Gulf Coast region, with a particular emphasis on the roles of poverty, race, and migration. The Research Institute, as the name makes clear, is research-focused; it investigates and analyzes social justice issues and shares its findings through education and advocacy campaigns. 

The Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, with assets exceeding $78 million in 2011, invests in projects that improve health and wellness among vulnerable populations. The foundation currently has several dozen active grants that support work such as NPR reporting on the re-integration of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; the enrollment of eligible Americans in expanded health coverage under the Affordable Care Act; and other projects that, like the CCA and Geo Group investigation, fall into what Langeloth refers to as "correctional health."

Groups engaged in promoting health among underserved populations can apply for funding from Langeloth in the spring and fall, and Langeloth welcomes calls or emails to discuss proposals before any formal submissions are made. Langeloth has a helpful list of FAQs for interested applicants and also provides instructions on the grant application process here.