The nation’s largest private prison contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, is heavily invested in all manner of detention at the state and federal level. Last year it added to its long running and extensive relationship with the federal government a sizeable contract to detain migrants traveling in family units. In a press release issued last week, CCA reported that this newest feature of its detention business is reaping substantial financial rewards. The company received $36.0 million in revenue from the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas during the first quarter of 2015.
The federal government’s use of detention against children and families is an important departure from its practice in recent years. Back in 2009, the Obama Administration stopped much of ICE’s family detention practice. Only a single facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania remained with a few dozen available beds. When ICE shuttered a 512 bed facility in Hutto, Texas, the New York Times reported, “The decision to stop sending families there—and to set aside plans for three new family detention centers—is the Obama administration’s clearest departure from its predecessor’s immigration enforcement policies.”
The Administration hasn’t just backed away from its prior position. It’s done so at great benefit to private prison corporations. Thanks to the $36 million it received for operating the Dilley facility, CCA’s first quarter revenue rose from $404.2 million in 2014 to $426.0 million. This increase, the company wrote in a press release, “was primarily attributable to the operational ramp of our South Texas Family Residential Center.” Without that bump from family detention, CCA would have had a harder time compensating for a “modest decline” in other revenue from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service. CCA houses detainees awaiting immigration court proceedings for ICE, and it houses criminal defendants waiting federal criminal prosecutions (including for immigration crimes) on behalf of the U.S. Marshals.
As of March 31, the Dilley family detention site could house up to 480 individuals. CCA expects to continue adding capacity in 480-bed increments up to 2,400 beds. It expects to reach full capacity sometime in the second quarter (April to June 2015).
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