The Private Prison Industry
By: Ally Bolour, Law Offices of Ally Bolour, APC
Did you know that there is a thriving Private Prison Industry (PPI) in the U.S.? These prisons’ profits depend on the number of prisoners they hold. The more prisoners they have, the more money they make. PPI gets most of its revenue from the U.S. Treasury, meaning that you and I pay our government to pay these private prisons to hold people.
Within the immigration world, there are two main private prisons – the GEO and CCA. Just in the past few years, these organizations have given more than $10 million to individual politicians and spent about $25 million on lobbying various members of Congress to further their financial windfall.
Although the PPI has been around for a while, it all became official in 2009, when the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) inserted language known as “bed quota” into the appropriations bills – which mandates ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to keep 34,000 available beds for detaining immigrants. The Obama Administration has dutifully enforced this mandate to varying degrees every year. The average bed occupancy in 2015 has been 26,374.
11% of the detainees are hardcore felons who should be behind bars. The rest are immigrants who may have committed minor crimes or misdemeanors, including women and children who may be undocumented– fleeing wars and extreme poverty, mostly from Central America. By imprisoning these refugees, the U.S. is not only blowing through every ethical standard, but it also is in violation of international laws it has signed.
The Obama Administration argues that the bed mandate is not really a mandate but rather a goal and availability of beds. Even if that were true – what a shameful goal to have – mainly to imprison families who are not a flight risk and pose no harm to us. Incarcerating immigrants has a cost of $162/per day/per person. Our government could opt for a much more humane approach by adopting alternatives to detention at a fraction of the cost; $10.55/per day/per person!
Keeping us safe – both from within the country and from across our border is a fundamental responsibility of our state and federal governments. Such important responsibility should never contracted, privatized or incentivized for profits. Immigrants are not commodities and no industry should be allowed to make money by imprisoning them.