One striking omission is any account of the early years at Brook House, which included a riot, hunger strikes and heavy criticism from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. IRCs are one part of an interlocking system of state and private power that is greater than the sum of its parts.
For this reason, we should think critically about editorial choices and omissions on the rare occasion that we see immigration detention on television.
At the time of writing, around 10 members of staff have been suspended, the centre manager has resigned and several G4S investigations have begun.
He is on Twitter @Dominic_Aitken On 4 September, the BBC aired a Panorama investigation into Brook House, an immigration removal centre (IRC) beside Gatwick Airport.
The hour-long programme was based on undercover footage filmed by a former detainee custody officer (DCO) who worked at Brook House for two years after leaving school.
They would be quick to point out that we don’t see what services and activities are available to detainees, nor does the programme show examples of dedicated staff acting with decency and civility, as many do every day.
During my time there, I saw staff deal with a severely ill man who was detoxing, who they knew should not have been in detention.
Fixating on the ‘criminal’ identity of certain detainees does, however, give us an indirect insight into how some DCOs think about the population of Brook House.
That is not to say that Brook House employees would be likely to approve of the programme.
We are told little about the role of policymakers, Home Office officials, judges, escort companies, healthcare staff or other players whose actions can deeply affect detainees’ lives.
Moreover, although Brook House only opened in 2009, the history and politics of immigration detention is curiously absent from the programme’s narrative. Perhaps it is all of the above and any attempt to pin down responsibility in one place is to mistake the nature of power in a modern state.
A psychiatrist explains some of the effects of prolonged and indefinite detention, while the former Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham offers his clear-eyed, elite view that immigration control is at root the responsibility of the Home Office.