Immigrant Detention Business Is Booming, So Is Abuse

When there is a social issue brewing there is always somebody ready to make a buck off of it. That is the premise of how private prison companies operate in the U.S. and across the globe. The advent of anti-immigrant sentiment in many parts of the country -fueled in great by the detention multi-nationals themselves coupled with opportunist politicians - has given rise to a booming industry that relies solely on the persecution of the migrant community. Yet, the notion that private prison companies can provide legitimate and adequate facilities for the detention of immigrants and the idea that they have a vested interest in the direction of immigration policy is not only absurd but flat-out dangerous.

Such is the case, as reported today by The New York Times, with the global Florida-based company The GEO Group. The GEO Group is the nation's second largest for-profit prison company within a $5 billion industry, and is often said to have greater power than the governments of countries where it operates. =In many cases GEO has influenced and dictated what local, state or federal approaches would be used to fill the hundreds of thousands of bed spaces they own. As the article points out, GEO Group posted a "40% increase in second-quarter profits," pointing to immigrant persecution as the main driver for new profit. The more immigrants in, the more money goes to CEO pockets. This is a perfect money-machine and GEO knows it well. In fact, they have been associated with strong lobby and campaign contribution efforts in order to promote and advance both anti-immigrant legislation as well as state privatization of prison initiatives.

Their influence is present at every level, aided greatly by the secrecy upon which federal, local and state contracts are conceived. In Florida for example, Sen. Marco Rubio has not only received $50,000 from the GEO group in campaign contributions - purportedly for his support into fast-tracking privatization initiatives - but is also a targeted subject of an FBI investigation for his role in the Blackwater River Correctional Facility (CF), which opened its gates for operation in November 2010. The prison was designed and is operated by GEO, which has secured multi-year, multi-billion contracts across the country, paid for by good-old tax-payer money.

Immigrants For Sale, the documentary investigation by the national Latino organization Cuéntame has catalogued hundreds of hours of footage and extensive research that consistently points to the detrimental effect GEO and other private prison operators have had on the national immigration debate. One of the most dangerous discoveries, on top of an already troublesome political influence, is that these operators have gone to great length to secure their profit often at the expense of the detainees' physical and mental integrity. These private facilities operate in the wild, without proper and necessary oversight. As such, they often cut medical services, food quality, hygienic conditions, trained personnel, and proper treatment of detainees to limit cuts and increase profit. This was certainly the case in Texas, where inmates broke out in riots in 2009 and 2010 "after several detainees died in solitary confinement."

Yet, private detention operators like the GEO Group continue to boast about their increasing share value. Time and again they point to the anti-immigrant legislation as a sure guarantee for ongoing business. They have billions at stake and they will do anything possible to keep it that way. This is the current state of our immigration system, one that puts profit over decency and greed over sensible policy. U.S. counties, states and the Department of Homeland Security have all been hijacked by big global prison corporations - like the GEO Group - who in turn are more than ready to transform a pressing social issue into an obscure and ruthless money scheme. It doesn't matter who they lock-up, how they lock them up or why they are locked-up. At $200 a night, they are making a killing - and YOU are paying for it.

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