Immigrants Are Dying in U.S. Detention Centers. And It Could Get Worse.

Source: Brendan O’Boyle, Americas Quarterly, July 17, 2017

… Trump’s policies are already increasing the number of people held in detention centers, further straining the system. … The administration has signaled its commitment to private prison companies, which also operate immigrant detention centers. This alarms detainee advocates, since five out of the seven detainees who died this year were being held by privately operated providers, and multiple investigations have found privately operated prisons to be more dangerous for inmates. … As it pushes for more detentions, the Trump administration also reportedly has plans to weaken protections for immigrant detainees. …

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Immigrant Deaths in Private Prisons Explode Under Trump
Source: Justin Glawe, Daily Beast, May 30, 2017

Men and women held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are on pace to die at double the rate of those who died in ICE custody last year, a Daily Beast review of ICE records found. And most will die in privately run facilities. Eight people have died in ICE custody in the 2017 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2016. That’s almost as many as the 10 who died in the entire 2016 fiscal year. All but one of the deaths this year, and all but two last year, occurred in privately run prisons. Nine of the 18 deaths occurred at facilities run by GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison company. …

The problem with privatizing prisons
Source: Farah Mohammed, Daily JStor, May 15, 2017

… The theory behind private prisons has translated poorly into practice, however, and has been strongly criticized. Studies showed there were minimal savings compared to using public prisons. A scandal involving the murder of an Oklahoma couple by escaped inmates was linked to lax security at their private facility. Another private Ohio prison saw thirteen stabbings, two murders, and six escapes in its initial 14 months.  In 2011, a Court Judge was convicted in a “cash for kids jail scheme,” in which private prisons had paid him to dole out harsh sentences in order to maintain their prison population. … Under Trump, inmate numbers are expected to increase substantially, following a crackdown on illegal immigration and a new insistence on mandatory minimums (where repeat offenders of even non-violent crimes must serve sentences of years). …


Private Prisons are Already Experiencing a Boon Under Trump and Critics Want to Know Why
Source: Hannah Kozlowska, Government Executive, April 3, 2017

Immediately following Donald Trump’s election, private-prison stocks soared. The $5-billion industry had just been severely hit by a policy decision from the Obama administration, and it was facing a groundswell of public opposition. But with Trump voicing support for prison privatization and promising an immigration crackdown, operators have been presented with a boon where they had feared a bust. … The turnaround has two Democratic US senators, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Cory Booker of New Jersey, seeking answers on Trump administration plans for more private prisons, criticized for years by advocates as inhumane.  As Vox reports, Booker and Van Hollen specifically ask for “clarification” from Sessions on his decision to rescind the phasing-out of private prisons by the Justice Department. …

Private prisons, explained
Source: Brett C. Burkhardt, The Conversation, March 20, 2017

… My research, and that of others, reveals that the trend toward privatization is unlikely to solve the very real problems in U.S. prisons. Nonetheless, the industry is a resilient one, and we can expect private prisons to persist in spite of their checkered performance history. … The debate over prison privatization tends to center on three points: cost, quality and morality. … Some reports indicate that private prisons have saved money. However, these comparisons are often marred by ambiguities in accounting. …On quality, there is less evidence of a private prison edge. Several studies have found the private sector has more inmate misconduct, more escapes, higher staff turnover, fewer inmate work assignments, more inmate grievances and greater use of discipline. … However, cost and quality are beside the point for critics who argue that prison privatization is intrinsically immoral, as illustrated in my prior work. … Moving forward, the industry is likely to grow, thanks to criminal imprisonment, immigrant detention and rehabilitative services. … Given the apparent staying power of the private prison industry, it is worth considering how to ensure that private prisons deliver a socially desirable service. A new emphasis on performance-based payments holds potential here. … While these performance-based contracts may do little to assuage the most ardent critics, they have the potential to make prison privatization a less fraught and more socially productive enterprise.

Trump Immigration Crackdown Is Great for Private Prison Stocks
Source: Jeff Sommer, New York Times, March 10, 2017

Nightmarish as the last two months have been for immigrants threatened by detention or deportation, it has been a marvelous time for two companies that stand to benefit from the Trump administration’s policies. … Already in 2017, CoreCivic is up about 30 percent; Geo has gained about 20 percent. “We are strongly opposed to the Trump administration policies on immigration,” said Carl Takei, staff lawyer for the A.C.L.U.’s national prison project. “But those policies are great for these companies.” The worse the news for immigrants and their lawyers, the better it has been for the two companies. When a member of the Trump administration issues a memo or executive order, gives a speech or tweets about the crackdown on immigrants, shares of the two companies rise: Since the election, CoreCivic’s stock price has climbed 120 percent, and Geo’s has gained 80 percent. Already in 2017, CoreCivic is up about 30 percent; Geo has gained about 20 percent. … The beauty of this, for Geo, is that it could expand its business in three ways. Initially, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement will need more places to detain immigrants “because the border patrol will catch the individuals and then send them to an ICE facility,” Mr. Zoley said. But that’s only part of the picture. “Subsequently, there will be a need by the U.S. Marshal Services for those people that have committed criminal acts and need to be detained for adjudication,” he added. And further down the line, Mr. Zoley said, the federal prisons will need to incarcerate “those people who have been sentenced and need to serve their time.” … The prison companies are intimately tied to the government, and major setbacks for the Trump administration could derail them. For now, though, the market loves them.

Trump’s Turn to Private Jails Boosts their Bonds
Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, March 6, 2017 (Subscription Required)

President Donald Trump’s plan to rely on private prisons to house federal inmates and immigration detainees is reviving interest in the high-yield bonds that financed the lockups.  “A federal return to utilization of private prisons and an acceleration of detainment activity by the Department of Homeland Security are producing more than market value improvements for municipal jail financings,” said Matt Fabian, partner at Municipal Market Analytics. …

Prison Bonds Are Going Through the Roof Thanks to Trump’s Immigration Policy
Source: Heather Gillers, Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2017

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week directed federal immigration and customs officials to “take all necessary action and allocate all available resources to expand their detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border with Mexico.”  The directive could be a boon to investors in mothballed prison facilities in Texas and Arizona: in its aftermath, their thinly traded, deeply depressed bonds have soared. … An investor who paid $7,650 for $100,000 worth of Willacy County, Texas, prison bonds that changed hands at a deep discount in December could make an almost $60,000 profit by selling them now, based on trades tracked Friday by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. …

The Private Prison Industry Is Licking Its Chops Over Trump’s Deportation Plans
Source: Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, February 21, 2017

Immigration agents sparked panic across the country last week, when a series of high-profile operations made it clear that a new era of crackdowns on undocumented immigrants had begun. … But given that America’s detention system for immigrants has been running at full capacity for some time now, where is the president going to put all of these people before deporting them?  In new jails, for starters. In the same executive order that called for the construction of a southern border wall, Trump instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to build out its sprawling network of immigration detention centers. Starting “immediately,” his order said, ICE should construct new facilities, lease space for immigrants alongside inmates in existing local jails, and sign new contracts—likely with private prison companies. … It’s not difficult to guess who profits. In an earnings call last week, the private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) announced that it saw the ICE detention expansion as a business opportunity.

… As of November, a whopping 65 percent of ICE detainees were held in facilities run by private prison companies, which typically earn a fee per detainee per night and whose business model depends upon minimizing costs to return profits to their shareholders. Since Trump’s election, private prison stocks have soared, and two new, for-profit detention centers are opening in Georgia and Texas. … The first new detention center contracts will likely take the form of arrangements between ICE and local governments to reopen empty prison facilities as detention centers or rent beds in existing local jails… The arrangements, known intergovernmental service agreements, allow ICE to cut deals with local governments and private prison companies while avoiding a lengthy public bidding process. … The opaque nature of the process allows all parties to avoid public outcry before the deals are signed, explains Silky Shah, co-director of the Detention Watch Network, an immigrant rights advocacy group. … Expanding detention quickly could have a high human cost. Schlanger is worried that conditions inside detention facilities could deteriorate without proper oversight from the Department of Homeland Security. … We don’t have to look far in the past to see the danger of rushing to open new detention facilities. … Shah expects to see familiar problems like poor medical care worsen as new deals for detention facilities are finalized. ….

Private Prison Companies May Shoot For Trump Infrastructure Cash
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, January 27, 2017

In the era of alternative facts, words have become more ambiguous than usual. So when President Donald Trump says he’ll spend $1 trillion rebuilding America’s infrastructure, we should look at the details to see what he really means.  Damon Hininger, CEO of the country’s largest private prison company, sure thinks he knows what Trump means. To Hininger, when Trump says “infrastructure,” he doesn’t just mean roads and bridges, he also means prisons and jails.  Asked in a December interview about what impact Trump would have on his business, he told CNBC, “I think this whole conversation about infrastructure and the need to replace old antiquated facilities, I think we can provide a lot of value.”  The “we” is Hininger’s company, CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The “conversation” he was referring to is, of course, Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. … From what we know about the plan, when Trump says “rebuild,” he really means “privatize.” Most of that $1 trillion would be other people’s money. Instead of issuing public debt—the simplest and cheapest way to build things—Trump would dangle a massive tax break to attract private investment to public infrastructure. Such “public-private partnerships” can be rife with problems—without protections, the public often loses control over policy regarding the infrastructure and workers get lower wages and fewer benefits. The tax break is just the cherry on top.

CELL HIGH Donald Trump’s immigration orders will make private prison companies filthy rich
Source: Keegan Hamilton, Vice News, January 26, 2017

Private prison companies just hit the jackpot. While attention was focused Wednesday on President Donald Trump’s orders to start building the border wall and cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, another aspect of his decree went mostly overlooked: Trump effectively gave the Department of Homeland Security carte blanche to expand immigrant detention. His executive order authorizes the department to “allocate all legally available resources” to “establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.” That means paying private prison companies like CoreCivic and the GEO Group to open new facilities to keep up with the Trump administration’s draconian “enforcement priorities” on immigration. … The only catch is that Trump’s order limits Homeland Security to the use of “available resources.” It’s not quite a blank check because it doesn’t give the department any additional money to spend on detention beyond the $40.6 billion already allocated for the 2017 fiscal year, much of which has already been devoted to existing projects and other costs. Congress will have to decide how much more cash it wants to throw at expanding immigrant detention by the end of April, when the next budget is due. The projected cost of immigrant detention under Trump’s plan is $35.7 billion, plus another $13.4 billion for “aggressive interior enforcement” and $11.3 billion for legal processing, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. …

Private prisons are poised for a comeback under Trump. Here’s how to reform them.
Source: Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Vox, January 13, 2017

Just a few months ago, things were looking very bleak for the private prison industry. … But Trump’s win has turned the prospects for private prisons around almost immediately. Trump’s racially charged law-and-order rhetoric, and his promise to deport or incarcerate millions of immigrants — with the help of a like-minded attorney general, Jeff Sessions — have breathed new life into the industry. … For-profit corrections are a $5 billion industry. … A little more than 126,000 (8 percent) of the nation’s inmates are housed in private prisons, and over 70 percent of US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees are held in private detention centers. The companies have been aggressive about expanding their market share, and they maintain a significant Washington, DC, presence. As the Washington Post recently reported, they’ve spent $35 million on lobbying since 1989. … Today, states and the federal government continue to draw up irresponsible contracts with private prison firms that give them far too much leeway. This has led to a lack of accountability and transparency, a lack of programming in many prisons, and no way to ascertain recidivism rates. But whether or not the Obama administration was right to phase out its reliance on private contracts (state prisons are hardly without their own problems), the likelihood is that the Trump administration will increase the private prison industry’s share of the corrections business. That means we should think hard about ways that private prison firms might innovate — including how they might devise new strategies to reduce recidivism. By improving the contracts with private prisons and changing the incentives, we can make private prisons more accountable and hopefully more effective in curbing the endless cycle of arrests and incarceration that plague our criminal justice system. …

The perverse incentive structure in private prison contracts encourages states to keep private prisons full, or very close. Often, private prison corporations benefit from contracts that are written so favorably to them that they receive money for empty prison beds. … And if states are paying for prison beds no matter what, there is little motivation to rethink its sentencing laws. Another criticism centers on the fact that private prisons earn more revenue when inmates serve more of their sentence, an incentive for private prison officials to give inmates more infractions, to forestall their release. As suggested by the Brennan Center for Justice, a good first step would be to reorient incentives through performance-based contracting. States and the federal government should ensure contracts with private prisons contain incentives that focus on reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for the 2.3 million people incarcerated. This would be a marked changed from today’s incentive structures that focus on rewarding private prison operators for building more bed capacity. …

Restructuring contracts around the nation’s public policy goals would ensure that private operators provide more educational programming and job training — and that they prepare their inmates for successful reentry to the community. Like it or not, all signs indicate the private prison industry is here to stay under Trump. … His administration would do well to adopt some of the innovative ways state officials have reined in the worst excesses of privatization. Building the proper incentives into contracts has the power to move the for-profit prison industry away from focusing on cost-cutting and filling beds toward a world where public and private incentives align. …

Here’s why the Trump administration will be good for private prisons — and bad for inmates
Source: Natasha Noman, Mic, January 10, 2017

But now private prisons are on track to make a quick comeback with the election of Donald Trump. The president-elect and his administration may well bolster these companies, whose stock prices have dramatically increased since the Nov. 8 election. GEO’s stock price went from $24 to $31 in less than a week after Trump’s victory.  These companies, and others like them, could potentially benefit from a confluence of factors, from stricter immigration laws to lengthening sentences. … Trump’s controversial choice of attorney general, Jefferson Sessions, is good news for the private prison industry, too.   Sessions has been a consistent and avid supporter of private prisons, inviting them into his home state of Alabama over the past few decades. This point, coupled with Sessions’ plan to prosecute undocumented immigrants, is likely good news for the prison-industrial complex. … To top it off, Trump has echoed Sessions’ approach to incarceration by explicitly saying on the campaign trail that he wants to privatize prisons.  “Our prison system is a disaster, it’s complete disaster all over the country,” Trump said in an MSNBC town hall in March. “By the way, with prisons I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the private prison industry has been accused of cozying up to Trump even before the elections.  The nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission in November, alleging GEO broke the law by funding a Trump super PAC. Companies that have government contracts are not actually allowed to make political contributions. …

Will The Private Prison Business See A Trump Bump?
Source: John Burnett, NPR, January 4, 2017

With President-elect Donald Trump’s tough talk on immigration, private prisons may be an early winner under his administration. In the week after Election Day, stocks of GEO and CoreCivic, the two biggest for-profit detention companies, shot up more than 20 and 40 percent, respectively. … Two possible categories of unauthorized immigrants who would go behind locked gates: First, the Trump campaign vowed to stop the catch and release of people who cross the border without documents to ask for asylum. And second, as president-elect, Trump has said he wants to deport 2 to 3 million “criminal aliens.” … But Trump’s Justice Department may reconsider private prison contracts, says Michele Deitch. “This summer, the Justice Department decided to reduce its use of privatization, and I think that will certainly be looked at again under a Trump administration,” says Deitch, who follows prison issues at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. GEO and CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, declined to comment on whether a Trump presidency would be good for stockholders. In emails, the two companies’ spokesmen emphasized their success as private partners for a government that doesn’t like to build new prisons anymore. GEO said it “provide[s] safe, secure and humane facilities” for federal detainees. …

How For-Profit Prisons Could Benefit Under President-Elect Donald Trump
Source: Lydia O’Neal, International Business Times, November 16, 2016

Among President-elect Donald Trump’s primary policy objectives once he officially assumes the nation’s highest office is a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, and investors in the private prison industry, which benefits substantially from such laws, are taking note.  In the days after Trump’s electoral victory, share prices for the nation’s largest for-profit prison companies spiked. The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), which has donated to Trump’s campaign, saw its shares jump to $31.77 as of market open on Tuesday from $23.88 at market close on Nov. 8. Corrections Corporation of America’s (CXW) share price closed at $14.19 on Nov. 8 before reaching $21.36 as of Tuesday market open. … Two months remain before Trump takes office and begins rolling out his policies, many of which he outlined during his campaign. At the end of October, Trump promised, if elected, to almost immediately enact a law that “reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime” and boosts funding for police and federal law enforcement agencies. He also pledged to, within his first 100 days, imprison undocumented immigrants returning to the U.S. after a previous deportation for a minimum of two years.  Such policies point to a future of growth for the private prison industry and the incarceration state—a term for the vast U.S. prison population, which is the world’s largest, per capita. … A day after the DOJ announced its decision, industry leader GEO Group donated $100,000 to pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now. The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint accusing the company of violating a Federal Election Commission law banning government contractors from making political contributions. In a statement emailed to IBTimes, GEO Group denied the allegations on the basis that the specific entity that donated to the Trump campaign, one of GEO Group’s 60 subsidiaries, is not a government contractor. …

Private Prison Stocks Surge After Donald Trump Victory
Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, November 9, 2016

Stock prices for the country’s two largest private prison contractors skyrocketed Wednesday after GOP nominee Donald Trump claimed victory in the U.S. presidential election. The largest private prison contractor, CoreCivic ― which recently changed its name from Corrections Corporation of America ― saw its stock shoot up by more than 58 percent shortly after morning trading began. Stocks for the second largest contractor, GEO Group, rose by more than 28 percent. Over the next few hours of trading, both stocks came down somewhat from those peaks, but remained strong. The numbers marked a sharp reversal for an industry that had seen its value plummet after the Obama administration announced in August that it would phase out the use of private contractors for Bureau of Prisons facilities. That decision came in response to a scathing report by the Justice Department’s Officer of the Inspector General, which found that overall, privatized prison facilities led to more security problems without necessarily saving money.

America’s second-largest private prison company accused of illegally donating to pro-Trump Super PAC
Source: Casey Tolan, Fusion, November 1, 2016

The second-largest private prison company in America made an illegal $100,000 donation to a Super PAC supporting Donald Trump, a good government group alleged Tuesday. A subsidiary of the GEO Group, which runs 64 prisons and jails around the country, made the donation in August to Rebuilding America Now, the primary PAC backing the Republican nominee that’s already raised upwards of $20 million for his campaign. The donation allegedly violated a law banning federal contractors from making federal political donations while in negotiations for a contract. GEO Corrections Holdings Inc. made the $100,000 donation on August 19, just one day after the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its private prisons, including several contracted to GEO. The donation was brought to light by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit which filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission Tuesday. … Federal contractors are prohibited by law from making any political donations while they are negotiating or performing a federal contract. On the same day that GEO made the $100,000 contribution, the company’s CEO, George Zoley, told shareholders on a conference call that the company was currently negotiating a contract extension for its D. Ray James facility, a federal prison in Georgia among the prisons earmarked by the DOJ for closing.

The Reason the Private Prison Industry Is Pulling for Donald Trump
Source: Danielle DeCourcey, ATTN:, October 18, 2016

This summer, the Department of Justice sent the private prison industry reeling when it announced the federal government would stop using the facilities to house inmates. Now, according to financial disclosures reported on by Mother Jones, it appears that a major private jailer is placing in their hopes in the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. As Mother Jones’ Russ Choma pointed out, GEO Corrections reacted to the DOJ’s August 18th announcement by donating $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump Super PAC that launched in June boasting $32 million in funding commitments. … Trump said he would expand private prisons as a part of his criminal justice strategy. “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better,” he said to NBC’s Chris Matthews at a town hall in April. … The Clinton campaign no longer accepts donations from private prison lobbyists or PACs. However Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported in February that the Clinton campaign has received fundraising help from lobbyists who are “closely connected” with the private prison industry. …

Private Prison Company Bankrolls Pro-Trump Super-PAC
Source: Russ Choma, Mother Jones, October 17, 2016

It’s unusual for a publicly traded corporation to donate to a super-PAC, but in August, private prison company GEO Group steered $150,000 to Rebuild America Now, a pro-Donald Trump outfit launched by the GOP nominee’s longtime friend, developer Tom Barrack. The timing of the GEO Group’s contribution is significant. It cut a $100,000 check to the super-PAC on August 19, the day after the Justice Department announced that it would phase out the use of private prisons. (The company’s political action committee donated $50,000 to Rebuild America Now a week before the announcement.) … Trump was not the GEO Group’s top choice for president. During the Republican primary campaign, the GEO Group gave $100,000 to a super-PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The company’s CEO, George Zoley, also donated to Rubio’s presidential campaign. …

Private Immigrant Detention Firm Gave $45K to Trump Fundraising Group
Source: Dean DeChairo, Roll Call, August 25, 2016

The political arm of one of the country’s leading operators of federally contracted immigrant detention facilities donated $45,000 last month to a joint fundraising committee supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing. The political action committee representing The GEO Group, Inc., made the donation on July 27 to the Trump Victory fund, a joint committee also supporting the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties. Donors to GEO’s PAC are almost entirely employees of the Boca Raton, Florida-based company. … The donation came weeks before the Justice Department said it would phase out its practice of hiring private prison companies — the GEO Group among them — to operate 13 correctional facilities. The group’s stock price plunged following the announcement even though ICE, the group’s biggest customer, indicated it would continue its private detention contracts. …