Immigrants are big business for private prisons
August 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This story has been reported in a few places but never seems to get too much traction. Hopefully that is changing, as numerous outlets have picked up on an AP story that private prisons are making major profits over the detention of immigrants. Here’s the crux of the situation:
The cost to American taxpayers is on track to top $2 billion for this year, and the companies are expecting their biggest cut of that yet in the next few years thanks to government plans for new facilities to house the 400,000 immigrants detained annually.
The growth is far from over, despite the sheer drop in illegal immigration in recent years.
In 2011, nearly half the beds in the nation’s civil detention system were in private facilities with little federal oversight, up from just 10 percent a decade ago.
The companies also have raked in cash from subsidiaries that provide health care and transportation. And they are holding more immigrants convicted of federal crimes in their privately-run prisons.
The financial boom, which has helped save some of these companies from the brink of bankruptcy, has occurred even though federal officials acknowledge privatization isn’t necessarily cheaper.
A lot of these stories in the past few months have come out of Miami, which holds a large number of detained persons, but as the article notes these facilities are expansive and all over the country.
This is particularly counter-productive when it comes to detention of immigrants. Some of these prisons hold immigrants accused of crime, and yes, people who commit crime should pay their debt to society, incarceration is one form of that payback. But the people who are detained because they are illegal immigrants or because they are caught crossing the border, languish in these prisons. Sometimes they are there for months or even years in extreme cases. This just costs more money to taxpayers. Political beliefs about taxpayers and prisons aside, the amount of money spent on the issue of detaining people is staggering, and people are kept from going about their lives in these institutions, all at a cost to taxpayers:
The total average nightly cost to taxpayers to detain an illegal immigrant, including health care and guards’ salaries, is about $166, ICE confirmed only after the AP calculated that figure and presented it to the agency.
That’s up from $80 in 2004. ICE said the $80 didn’t include all of the same costs but declined to provide details. (AP)
Lending credence to the idea that private prisons are ducking out of accountability is this story from Tuscon, which reports that Arizona repealed a law asking private prisons to demonstrate their cost saving measures – and as we saw in the AP report, it seems that private prisons aren’t actually saving that much yet can claim they do without having to show proof in a state plagued with contention over immigration issues. As the AP reports, “One fundamental difference between private detention facilities and their publicly-run counterparts is transparency. The private ones don’t have to follow the same public records and access requirements.”