Yesterday, CoreCivic, the new name for the Corrections Corporation of America, announced a new contract with ICE to imprison thousands of migrants in Ohio. CoreCivic/CCA will operate 2,016 beds for ICE at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center. CoreCivic/CCA already holds approximately 600 migrants at the same facility on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service. While people being held on behalf of ICE are generally awaiting immigration court hearings, those held on behalf of USMS are held pending federal criminal prosecution.
This represents another instance in which ICE helps boost the bottom line for private prison corporations. In January 2015, the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that it would not renew its contract with CCA to house convicted offenders at the NEOCC. Until then, the NEOCC reportedly held approximately 1,400 convicted offenders on behalf of the federal government. Most of these were serving a sentence for illegal entry or reentry.
Despite the common refrain that migrants held on behalf of ICE are not prisoners and are not being confined for purposes of punishment, the NEOCC suggests otherwise. As the Ohio state prison oversight commission put it, the NEOCC “is built in a high security design, but it houses low security inmates.” Curiously, the Ohio commission listed the facility’s maximum capacity at 2,016—the exact number of beds that CoreCivic/CCA says it will provide ICE. This suggests that the company plans either to expand its capacity or, if ICE chooses, replace all of its current inmates with ICE prisoners.