Friday, May 29, 2015

How US Private Prisons Profit From Immigrant Detention

By Melanie Diaz and Timothy Keen, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
May 12, 2015

In February 2015, a large-scale prison uprising broke out at the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Texas. The detention center has experienced riots like this in the past over several other issues, such as inadequate health services, inhumane conditions, and sexual abuse.[i] However, the grievances that sparked this most recent uprising are representative of a larger and more elusive epidemic. The covert and insidious world of the prison industrial complex (PIC)[1] is witnessing the rise of for-profit prisons largely devoid of oversight and regulatory measures, allowing rampant human rights abuses to persist.[ii] Unfortunately, events that took place in Raymondville are far from isolated incidents under this new paradigm.[iii] Operating in the shadows of U.S. bureaucracy, private prison corporations (PPCs) have garnered an infamous reputation for profiting from the government-subsidized business of immigrant detention. Due to this, for-profit prison corporations lobby extensively and provide exorbitant political contributions so that Congress will appropriate more money into immigration enforcement, fueling the revenue of the PIC.

How It Works

The increased detention rate of undocumented immigrants in the United States is primarily caused by a cyclical process occurring between three main actors: government agencies, private prison corporations (PPCs), and Congress. Each of these entities play their own role in adding to the existing problem, but together they create a cycle that is difficult to break. While Congress passes anti-immigration legislations, government agencies enforce these laws and contract with PPCs to facilitate an increasing number of federally convicted detainees. In return, PPCs, whose profits are dependent on the number of incarcerated individuals, rely on lobbying efforts to influence Congress into passing laws and appropriating spending to increase strict immigration policies.[iv] These efforts allow PPCs to reap better financial deals from contracts with government agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which enforce the anti-immigration laws passed by Congress.[v] These combined factors cause incarceration rates to skyrocket, thus making PPCs the ultimate winner in this deceptive cycle that hinders progressive immigration reforms and the promotion of immigrant rights.[...]

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