The country’s newest and largest facility in which families, including children, will be detained is scheduled to begin receiving inmates in December, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) announced. CCA, the largest private prison company operating in the United States, holds the contract to build and operate the new facility, formally named the South Texas Family Residential Center, on behalf of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Though news about the Dilley facility was released several weeks ago, this is the first clear statement of an expected opening date that I’ve seen from CCA or ICE.
Without much fanfare, CCA noted its expected operational timeline in a press release for investors. “The site is currently being constructed and we expect to begin housing the first residents at the facility in early December 2014. The site is expected to be ready for full capacity during the second quarter of 2015,” CCA announced November 3. The 2,400-bed facility will be located in remote Dilley, Texas, about 1 hour and 15 minutes southwest of San Antonio. With a 2010 population of 3,894 people, Dilley’s population will grow rather significantly when the family detention site is fully operational. To accommodate these detainees, CCA is actively hiring staff; it claims that it will need over 600 employees to operate the facility.
CCA expects to invest between $110 and $120 million in 2014 constructing the facility and equipping it to receive inmates. The company describes this as a “minimal capital outlay” attributable to the fact that it’s actually leasing the site from the city of Eloy, Arizona. This is a very unusual arrangement—even by the standards of immigration detention—but the end result is clear: CCA anticipates a strong return on this investment in the coming months and years. The company’s chief executive officer Damon Hinger said in the press release that CCA “believe[s] we have strong momentum as we look forward to 2015,” in part, the company explained in a presentation to investors, because the Dilley facility is “expected to contribute to earnings growth.” Indeed, a National Public Radio story recently reported that CCA is likely to receive just shy of $290 million for operating the Dilley facility in its first year alone. CCA’s current contract is for an initial period of four years, with the possibility of extensions.
Once running at full capacity, the Dilley facility will have vastly expanded the government’s detention of families, including children. According to data compiled by the advocacy group Detention Watch Network, family detention will have grown to about 3,800 beds from roughly 85 beds in June 2014.