Immigrant detainment is a windfall for the private prisons industry

The Trump administration is looking to build more prisons for immigrant detainees and have private corporations run them.
By Rick Docksai | Sep 17, 2018
The Trump administration's hardline immigration policies are a lucrative business opportunity for the private prisons industry. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been calling for building five new detention centers across the country and assigning all of them to private ownershipanother major policy reversal from the Obama administration, which had been limiting the use of private prisons over concerns about their allegedly poor living conditions and repeat violations of inmates' basic human rights.

Their examples include the Joe Corley Detention Facility. ICE pays the facility's owner, the GEO Group, $2 billion a year to detain immigrants despite reports that inmates have suffered rapes, received inadequate medical care, and been forced to work full-time labor shifts for just a dollar a day.

Joe Corley is no anomaly, according to nonprofits Human Rights Watch, Detention Watch Network, Human Rights First, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They and other groups have compiled numerous reports of medical neglect and deaths in custody, and all conclude that the prisons' corporate owners skimp on detainee care to maximize profits.

These prisons do so with little to no interference from federal regulators, asserts Kevin Landy, former director of ICE's Office of Policy and Planning. Landy's office tried to improve federal oversight of immigrant prisons during the Obama administration, and Landy personally advocated for raising inmate laborers' pay. But ICE is now shutting the office down.

"I don't get the impression that the Trump administration has any interest in implementing new detention reforms. If anything, it looks like they may be eliminating some safeguards," Landy told NPR.

The administration may be personally invested in the industry, some critics allege. They note that GEO Group and Corecivic, the two largest private prison corporations, each donated $250,000 to Trump's inaugural festivities.


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