White House considers ending for-profit immigrant detainee centers but critics say it could add billions to the cost

September 6, 2016
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration is considering an end to the practice of keeping immigrant detainees in for-profit centers, weeks after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would stop its use of private prisons.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the immigration service and the Border Patrol, in late August ordered a review of ways to end the use of the private facilities.

A decision to do so would mark a major victory for the coalition of civil rights groups and immigrant advocacy organizations that has sought to roll back the growth of the private-prison industry. Immigration detention facilities house far more detainees than the private facilities the federal prison system has used.

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Civil rights advocates have documented a pattern of poor medical care and abuse inside private immigration facilities over the last several years. They say such prisons have an incentive to cut corners and reduce costs.

Although the allegations of abuse are not limited to privately run prisons, “we certainly see a lot of these problems magnified when a company is seeking to extract as much profit as it can out of a detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.