Organizers often say that there are two kinds of power: money power and people power. If you don’t have one, you better get the other. The story of the attempt to build a private detention center in Crete, Ill. is a classic case of the struggle between the two, namely, the power of money against the power of the people.
A private detention center, lobbied for by the abundantly wealthy Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), will not be built in Crete. How did this happen?
In spring of 2011, through JCUA’s central role in the Illinois Committee on Detained Immigrants, Emily Zucker Burns (JCUA’s director of organizing) learned that there are plans to build Illinois’s first private detention center in Crete. At the time there was no organized effort to oppose this move, the opposition was scattered, and many facts were unknown and concealed.
In response, and in partnership with our community allies, JCUA decided to invest significant staff time in researching the issue, and, most importantly, spending time in Crete – talking to residents and empowering their leadership, reaching out to elected officials, and building bridges between Crete residents and immigrant communities that would potentially be most affected if the prison were built. This groundwork is tedious; it does not present immediate reward. Initially there were no victories to tout, only numerous meetings, phone calls, and time spent listening and planning.