BREAKING: Department of Homeland Security to revisit for-profit immigration detention contracts

August 29, 2016

Honest review of private prisons should result in DHS ending contracts for private immigrant detention centers, including family detention camps, by reducing use of detention

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that he had ordered a review of for-profit immigration detention contracts to be completed by an advisory group by November 30th.  The review follows a Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement on August 18th instructs the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to phase out private prison contracts.

"Based on the stories that have come out of for-profit detention centers for years, including hunger strikes and protests by detained migrants, there is every reason to believe that ICE-contracted private prisons have many of the same problems that the DOJ uncovered this month,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “DHS should follow the DOJ's lead and cancel its contracts while moving to end its reliance of the mass detention of  immigrants — including migrant families detained in for-profit prisons in South Texas."

The DOJ’s decision to cut ties with private prisons followed a damning Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that showed, amongst other things, that private prisons contracted by the BOP had higher rates of assaults, both on prisoners and staff, that private prisons improperly put prisoners into solitary confinement, and that private prison contracts did not save significant amounts of money.

Private prison corporations reacted to the DOJ’s decision by blaming immigrant prisoners for higher rates of violence, even though the DOJ cited operational problems as the cause of the systemic failures within CAR contract prisons.  

GEO Group claimed on a conference call with investors following DOJ’s announcement that immigrant prisoners were more “prone to violence.”  Both GEO and CCA responded to the OIG report (responses begin on page 70) with statements blaming the demographics of immigrant prisoners for the substandard performance in their facilities, with CCA claiming that immigrant prisoners were more likely to be gang members and “predisposed to violence” in its response to the OIG report.  Most immigrant prisoners in the BOP have been convicted of either drug and immigration offenses, and CAR-contract facilities are typically minimum or medium security prisons, not maximum security facilities.  

According to a report released by Grassroots Leadership last year, private prisons increased their share of the immigrant detention industry after the implementation of a quota that guaranteed 34,000 immigrants would be detained at any given time. Private prison corporations accounted for two thirds of ICE detention beds in 2014, and NPR reported last week that the share of immigration detention beds operated by private prison corporations has increased to 72%. CCA and GEO alone operate nine out of ten of the largest detention centers.

The Homeland Security Advisory Council Members:

  • William Webster (Chair)- Retired Partner, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP

  • Commissioner William Bratton (Vice Chair) - Police Commissioner, City of New York

  • Art Acevedo - Chief of Police, Austin Police Department, Texas

  • Steve Adegbite - Chief Information Security Officer, E*TRADE Financial Corp.

  • John R. Allen – General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

  • Thad W. Allen- Executive Vice President, Booz|Allen|Hamilton

  • Norman Augustine- Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp.

  • Ron Barber- Consultant for Government Relations, Policy Analysis, Legislative Advocacy and Customer Relations, Public and Private entities

  • Chuck Canterbury- National President, The Fraternal Order of Police

  • Richard Danzig- Senior Advisor, John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

  • Elaine C. Duke- Principal, Elaine Duke & Associates, LLC

  • Marshall Fitz- Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

  • Paul Goldenberg- President and CEO, Cardinal Point Strategies, LLC

  • Lee H. Hamilton- Director, Center on Congress, Indiana University

  • Jane Harman, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

  • Elizabeth Holtzman- Co-chair, Herrick's Government Relations Group,

  • Jim Jones, Chairman- ManattJones Global Strategies

  • Juliette Kayyem- Founder of Juliette Kayyem Solutions, LLC

  • Gary Kelly- President and CEO, Southwest Airlines

  • John Kelly- General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

  • Carie A. Lemack- Cofounder and CEO of DreamUp

  • Wilson Livingood- President and Partner, Livingood Advisors, LLC

  • Jane Holl Lute- Special Coordinator on Improving United Nations Response to sexual exploitation and abuse

  • John Magaw- Consultant, Domestic and International

  • Christian Marrone- CoS to the CEO, VP of Government Relations, CSRA Inc.

  • David Martin- Professor of International Law- University of Virginia School of Law

  • Jeffrey Miller- Senior Vice President, MSA Security

  • Jeff Moss- Founder of Black Hat and DEF CON Conferences

  • Dr. Ned Norris Jr.- Former Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation

  • Michael Nutter- Former Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Mathew Olsen- President of Consulting and Co-Founder, IronNet Cybersecurity

  • Farah Pandith- Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

  • Annise Danette Parker- Former Mayor, City of Houston, Texas

  • John S. Pistole- President, Anderson University

  • Robert Rose- Senior Advisor to the CEO, Securonix

  • Harold A. Schaitberger- General President, International Association of Firefighters

  • Ali H. Soufan- Chairman and CEO, The Soufan Group LLC

  • Paul Stockton- Managing Director, Sonecon LLC

  • Karen Tandy- Administrator (Ret.), Drug Enforcement Administration

  • Lydia W. Thomas- Retired President and CEO, Noblis, Inc.

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.