Key takeaways from new report on private prison payoff from the immigrant detention quota

A new Grassroots Leadership report released today, Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota, documents connections between the rise of for-profit detention of immigrants and increased lobbying to the DHS Appropriations Subcommittee in Congress, which is responsible for the 'bed quota' or mandated minimum number of immigrants to be detained at any given time. This mandatory minimum for detentions has resulted in record profits for private prison corporations since 2009. 

Top-lines from today’s report include:

  • Private prison corporations have seized a greater portion of the immigration detention system since the onset of the immigrant detention quota. Privately owned beds have increased 13% and today, 9 out of the 10 largest immigrant detention centers are private, with 8 owned by only two corporations.

  • Two private prison corporations dominate the immigrant detention industry and are making record profits at the expense of communities and taxpayers. Since the end of 2007, the GEO Group has increased their profits by 244%, and CCA by 46% over the same time period.

  • A large portion of this profit comes from federal immigrant detention. Together, CCA and GEO made almost $478 million in revenue in 2014 from ICE detention. CCA derived 44% of their total revenue from three federal agencies with correctional and detention responsibilities: the BOP, ICE, and USMS. Private estimates suggest that the private prison industry will acquire 80% of any future immigrant detention bed increases.

  • The private prison industry is reinvesting this profit in Congress to protect their bottom line, and has spent an enormous amount of money lobbying on immigrant detention and appropriations policies. Together, between 2008-2014 CCA and GEO have spent more than $11 million in quarters when they lobbied on immigration issues and CCA spent nearly $10 million during the same time period in quarters when they lobbied on the DHS Appropriations Committee, the point of control for the quota.

  • Nearly all new family detention beds are privately operated. GEO and CCA’s newly opened detention centers in Karnes and Dilley, Texas are currently under expansion to have the capacity to detain 3,600 refugee mothers and children, at enormous profit to these corporations.

  • The only way to stop this cycle is to end the quota and dramatically reduce the use of detention. Until then for-profit prison companies will continue to reap millions and spend those profits lobbying Congress to protect their bottom line.

For more specifics and testimonies from formerly detained immigrants, see the entire report here.