The job of putting illegal immigrants behind bars has become a big business for the private prison industry. Due to the vast numbers of these illegals being incarcerated, these big prison corporations have become dependent upon this revenue stream, which has in fact kept many of the largest of these in operation.
Currently the federal government is spending around $2 billion a year keeping around 50% of the 400,000 illegal immigrants in prison housed in private prison facilities. The federal government has also stated that making use of these private prisons to house these illegals isn’t necessarily a cheaper option, although that is one of the biggest reasons why these prison facilities were privatized.
In an effort to determine how much these private prisons were costing the taxpayers, the Associated Press calculated the cost of these private prisons, and also added in the amount they spent on donations to political candidates and for lobbying Congress. The financial reports they reviewed went back more than 10 years through both the feds and the state records.
This study showed evidence that there was a relationship between the individuals who create policies on immigration and several of those big prison corporations. While there was nothing apparently illegal about these relationships, it was found that many of these big prison corporations were struggling to stay above water before Congress passed some of the stricter immigration laws pertaining to detention of these immigrants.
It’s easy to see how the federal money has been going to three of the largest of these campaign contributing companies due to the fact that only a decade ago there were only about 10% of prison beds within the private sector, but now the private sector holds about 50% of those beds. These beds are held in majority by GEO group, Corrections Corp. of America, and Management and Training.
As far as can be seen, there is going to be a continuation of growth regardless of the fact that the numbers of illegal immigrants coming into the nation has been on the decline.
If you look at the records, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was almost bankrupt in 2000 do to a number of lawsuits brought against it, a reduction in contracts, and problems with internal management. This is a striking contrast to the revenue they received last year, which was in the amount of $162 million in net profit.
As much as 43% of those revenues taken in were due to contracts with the federal government, and a good part of that was due to the detention of illegal aliens.
Another one of the companies, GEO, who makes the boast of ICE being their main client, saw their business grow from a net of $16.9 million in the year 2000 to nearly $79 million currently.
While all of these profits were being recorded and accumulated, a combined total of around $45 million has been spent by these businesses for contributions to political campaigns and for both state and federal lobbying efforts according to the AP.
This effort to privatize the prison system happened without a lot of fanfare. In the course of the time that Congress was unsuccessfully trying to overhaul many of the immigration laws, for which they were getting a lot of exposure by the media and were also bringing about a mass of demonstrations against such laws, the negotiations for increasing the amount of dollars spent to detain illegal immigrants was silently pushed through.
The two largest private prison corporations, GEO, and CCA, both are quite insistent on the fact they are not trying to influence immigration policy either way in order to increase their companies profits, and all of the donations that they have provided campaigns as well as their lobbying efforts are completely legal.
In the process of the investigation, the Associated Press sent an e-mail to the spokesperson for CCA, Steve Owen, requesting clarification on this, and was provided with a response of “as a matter of long-standing corporate policy, CCA does not lobby on issues that would determine the basis for an individual’s detention or incarceration”. It is important to note however that CCA does have a website that is fully dedicated to debunking allegations of this sort.
The other two large companies receiving these massive amounts of taxpayer dollars, GEO, who up until 2003 was a part of the Wackenhut security firm, and Management and Training, both declined to participate in any interviews that were requested.
All of the groups who advocate for illegal immigrants obviously remain skeptical on whether or not these lobbying efforts are designed to influence policies on immigration..
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, who has been at the helm of a campaign that is designed to get many of the large mutual funds and banks to stop investing in these privatized prison corporations stated “that’s a lot of money to listen quietly”.
These private detention facilities are located throughout the United States in several remote locations as well as major cities. For instance, there’s one located in a suburb of Denver, and another that is located in an industrial park that is next to the airport in Newark New Jersey. Quite a number of these facilities are in low-slung buildings that are completely surrounded by razor wire and chain link fences.
These facilities are used by ICE officials in order to detain individuals who are suspected of being in the country illegally, whether they are women, children, or men.
Currently there are around 250 of these sites across the nation, and while the majority of the individuals being held in these facilities are illegal immigrants who are waiting to be deported, other individuals held at these facilities include holders of green cards, people who are seeking asylum, and those held for causes not related to immigration.
On average it costs taxpayers around $166 a night to house an illegal immigrant including the costs of paying the guards, and the detainees health care while they are being incarcerated. Upon receiving these calculations from the AP, ICE confirmed that they were correct.
That is a dramatic increase from the $80 that it cost taxpayers back in the year 2004. Although ICE didn’t provide us with any further details, they stated that the previous $80 amount did not include all of the same expenses.
Pedro Guzman, who was brought into the United States by his Guatemalan mother at the age of eight, found himself in one of these private prison facilities recently. Pedro had been living and working in the United States legally under a provision that kept him temporarily protected, but after he missed an appointment to show up for an asylum application hearing, he was ordered detained. Pedro was then ordered to be deported by officials.
During the time Pedro has been in the United States, he married United States citizen, and regardless of this fact, ICE determined him to be a flight risk and ordered him to be held in a detention facility. The first facility he was placed in was a private prison which was run by CCA and located in Gainesville Georgia, but they soon moved him to the Stewart Detention Center south of Atlanta, also run by CCA. Pedro was kept in the Stewart facility for 19 months before he was finally provided with legal permanent residency status.
In the AP interview with Guzman, he stated “it’s a millionaire’s business, and they are living off profits from each one of the people who go through there every single night”. Pedro is now employed with a cable installer in the Durham North Carolina area. He went on to say that “it’s our money that we earn as taxpayers every day that goes to finance this.”