Last Saturday, members of the Salt Lake City Prison Divestment Campaign told Utah’s Democratic Party the truth about Jane Marquardt, who sought a position as vice chair of the Utah Democratic Party’s Central Committee. You see, Jane holds another vice chair position: Vice chair of the board at Management and Training Corporation (MTC), America’s third largest operator of for-profit prisons.
While Marquardt is praised by establishment liberal organizations like Human Rights Campaign and Equality Utah for supporting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights, her company profits from the disproportionate caging and abuse of LGBT people, especially transgender women. LGBT youth are disproportionately likely to be homeless, putting them at increased risk of criminalization. Furthermore, the poverty inflicted on members of the LGBT community through employment and housing discrimination increases their risk of incarceration. Transgender people have their risk of incarceration further exacerbated by being profiled for “prostitution” charges and sometimes even locked up for using public restrooms. There is also homophobic and transphobic discrimination in America’s immigration system, leading LGBT immigrants to be disproportionately sent to immigration detention centers, which MTC profits from.
Once locked in prison or an immigration detention center, LGBT inmates face horrific abuses. A 2007 study found that “[s]exual assault is 13 times more prevalent among transgender inmates, with 59 percent reporting being sexually assaulted.” The same study found that 67% of LGBT inmates reported being sexually assaulted. That’s 15 times the rate for their straight and cisgender counterparts.
Transgender inmates are also often placed in solitary confinement due to their gender identity. Voices across the political spectrum recognize solitary confinement as a form of torture. Yes, Jane Marquardt, a leading Democrat and “LGBT rights activist,” profits from the torture of transgender people.
There have also been abuses unique to facilities Marquardt’s company operated. An investigative report by PBS’s FRONTLINE found that MTC’s Willacy Detention Center was a site of rampant sexual abuse, and that guards were covering it up. When activists from the Prison Divestment Campaign told Jane Marquardt in a cordial meeting that this had happened in her facilities, she looked shocked and said “That would be terrible if that were happening in our facilities!” When we told her it was and handed her a copy of FRONTLINE’s report, she changed the subject.
MTC has not just been corrupt in their operation of prisons, but in their political donations. They donate money to politicians whom they expect will open new for-profit prisons. Furthermore, they donated to supporters of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, which would send new unwilling immigrant customers to their cages.
When activists called out Marquardt for profiting from human rights abuses, Democrats were appalled not at Jane’s profiteering, but that anyone would be so rude as to shout about it. Yet the Democratic Party claims to stand for immigrants, the poor, people of color, and the LGBT community, all of which are groups that Jane Marquardt’s company cages and abuses for profit.
People who care about equality and human rights should see this as a wake up call. They should abandon the Democratic Party, and instead resist the corrupt system that enables Jane Marquardt to profit by caging human beings.
Nathan Goodman is a writer and activist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been involved in LGBT, feminist, anti-war, and prisonersolidarity organizing. In addition to writing at the Center for a Stateless Society, he blogs at Dissenting Leftist. He is a member of the Prison Divestment Project.