On any given day, at least 34,000 people are detained in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. to meet an arbitrary lock-up quota dictated by Congress. Stopping the quota would be a giant step forward in ending our reliance on detention. Grassroots Leadership researches and exposes the role of for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in enacting the quota contributes to the growing national movement to stop immigrant detention.
Detention and the #EndTheQuota Campaign
Plans by the Department of Justice to begin phasing out contracts with private prisons is fueling calls from immigrant advocates to also end the use of private immigration detention centers.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has in recent years increasingly contracted with private for-profit companies to run a vast network of detention centers to hold immigrants, including the 1,550-bed Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County about 60 miles south of Phoenix.
Critics contend the use of for-profit companies to run immigration detention centers has fueled a trend to hold more people rather than use less expensive alternatives to detention.
"These companies have financial interest in making sure that these detention facilities are full," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group based in Austin, Texas, that opposes private prisons. Read more about Could for-profit immigrant detention centers, including in Arizona, be next on feds' hit list?
News that the federal government is rolling back its dealings with private prisons was a big enough deal on Thursday that it sent Corrections Corp stock plummeting within 60 seconds.
It's no small thing: the government's decision to decline or let expire contracts with the 13 private prisons across the country will affect about 40,000 inmates held inside, according to a 2014 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
But this move only affects a fraction of inmates locked up by the private sector: the same report shows over 91,000 are housed in state prisons, which will be untouched by the DOJ's decision. The BJS report does not include private county prisons.
Nor will the decision touch the private detention operations of the Immigration and and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, a bigger client to the private prison industry than the DOJ. ICE is under a mandate to hold 34,000 detainees at a time, and corporations oversee 62 percent of ICE's detention beds.
A damning report by the Inspector General a week ago found private inmates get worse treatment, fewer resources, and shabbier conditions than their counterparts in publicly-run prisons.
"I would still say this is an historic day and may mark a turning point," said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership, a civil rights group that studies and organizes to end private prisons.
"I hope it's one of many big days to come," he added. Read more about The federal shutdown of private prisons only affects a fraction of inmates
Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership executive director, discusses the U.S. government halting a decade-long experiment to hire private companies to help manage the soaring prison population. He speaks with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker and Joe Weisenthal on "Bloomberg Markets." Read more about Prison REITs Sink After U.S. Ends Privately-Run Jails
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Justice has released a report on privately operated prisons that concludes these facilities, some of them located in Texas, have more safety and security incidents than those operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The DOJ looked at incidents that occurred between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2014 and OIG staff visited three private prisons that have contracts with the federal government.
Two of them are in Texas.
They are the Dalby Correctional Facility, which is in the northwest part of the state, and the Eden Detention Center, located about 50 miles east of San Angelo. Read more about DOJ Report: Privately Operated Prisons Less Safe For Inmates And Staff
The DOJ’s decision will impact 13 federal prisons run by private companies, or just over 22,000 incarcerated people. These people will be ostensibly shuffled to publicly-operated prisons, which is still a big problem for those who argue that mass incarceration itself is a profound injustice.
As the anti-prison-profiteering organization Grassroots Leadership explains, “Most privately-operated prisons within the BOP are Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons. CAR prisons hold noncitizens, many of whom have been criminally prosecuted for crossing the border.” Bethany Carson, researcher and organizer for the group, said in a press statement, “We hope that this decision will be a stepping stone for the DOJ to end the use of segregated prisons for non-citizens and de-prioritize improper entry and re-entry prosecutions.” Read more about There's a Monster Loophole in the Feds' Move to Stop Working With Private Prisons
By now you’ve heard the news: The U.S. Department of Justice will stop using private prisons. The price of stock in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies, plunged 25 percent within a few hours of the announcement Thursday. By the end of the day, the nonprofit group In the Public Interest listed CCA stock’s drop in value as 50 percent and GEO Group’s at 35 percent.
It’s wonderful news and may seem to come out of the blue. But it follows last week’s release of a report by the DOJ that reiterated what advocates have been documenting for years: Private prisons are both less safe and less effective than those run by the government.
Chief among those advocates is the Texas-based group, Grassroots Leadership, which over the past two years has also partnered with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform to highlight Vermont’s practice of shipping men out of state to private prisons. (In July 2015, Vermont’s “overflow” prisoners were moved from a CCA-owned prison in Kentucky to a GEO Group prison in Baldwin, Michigan.) Read more about Suzi Wizowaty: DOJ makes right call on private prisons
The Obama Administration announced last week that the federal Bureau of Prisons will end its reliance on privately-run, for-profit prisons. The facilities, which the Justice Department calls unsafe and expensive, currently house about 22,000 inmates, almost all of whom are not U.S. citizens. While the move will do little to reduce the nation’s overall prison population — now numbering more than 2.2 million — supporters say it’s a crucial step in bringing about broader criminal justice reforms. We discuss the details of the policy change and the prevalence of private prisons across the United States. Read more about Federal Government to Phase Out Use of Some Private Prisons
(AUSTIN, Texas) — A disturbing pattern is emerging as federal immigration officials in Central Texas refuse to allow an independent inspection at a women’s detention facility while completely ignoring outcry from attorneys and judges over violations of due process after a mass transfer from the same facility. Read more about ICE blocks inspection at Hutto facility, ignores outcry over due process violations after arbitrary transfers
The US immigration detention has ballooned since the turn of the millennium, doubling in size between 2000 and 2010 amidst a national crackdown on immigration. The bloated system, run largely by private, for-profit prison companies,currently incarcerates men, women, and even children, and the detention centers have been plagued by allegations of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual assault.
In a significant departure from the Obama administration's policies, Clinton has pledged to close these private-run detention centers. She has also promised to close the family detention centers opened by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to an influx of children and mothers seeking asylum from violence-plagued countries in Central America.
Immigration advocates aren't totally satisfied, pointing out that Clinton has not actually promised to decrease overall detention of undocumented immigrants. "We don't think immigrant detention should exist," said Christina Parker, who directs immigration programs for Grassroots Leadership. "There's a strong argument that the only reason immigrant detention so large is to profit two or three companies. So if you believe that then there would be no reason for them to exist after private contracts ended."
Parker added that the Democratic candidate should specify "how exactly and when exactly" the facilities would shut down. So far, Clinton has not. Read more about Everything You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton's Immigration Plans