Private prisons have expanded at an astonishing rate in recent years and much of that growth can be attributed to immigration imprisonment, according to a new report by the Sentencing Project. Cody Mason, The Sentencing Project, Dollars and Detainees: The Growth of For-Profit Detention (July 2012). Thanks in large part to immigration prisoners, private prison corporations have maintained strong bottom-lines even while the economy has struggled, the report added.
The report divides immigration prisoners into two camps: those held under the direction of ICE and those under the United States Marshals Service’s control. ICE prisoners are held pending immigration proceedings and USMS prisoners are held awaiting prosecution for an immigration-related or other crime. Mason at 2-3.
In 2002, Mason reported, 4,841 INS detainees were held in private facilities. By 2010, that number had jumped to 14,814, a 206% increase. Mason at 4. For its part, USMS held 4,061 people in private facilities in 2002 and 17,154 in 2010, a 322% increase.
Today, ICE holds approximately 43% of its prisoners (13,927 on average per night in 2012) in private jails. Thanks to their contracts to house these individuals, the country’s two largest prison corporations, the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, earned 20 and 14 percent of their 2011 revenue, respectively, from ICE. Mason at 5. Plus, it can’t hurt that they’re allowed to pay immigrant prisoners as little as $1 per day for an 8-hour workday. That’s right: $1 per day for 8 hours of work. (See government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act request.)
A few other interesting bits of information jumped out at me while reading Mason’s report: forty percent of all USMS prisoners in 2011 were detained on immigration-related charges, Mason at 3; CCA spends about $2 million lobbying legislators each year, Mason at 13; and 8 of ICE’s 10 biggest facilities are privately operated, Mason at 8.
The gist is that private immigration imprisonment is growing creating quite a lucrative market for the prison corporations.