According to an article recently shared on Fusion, the majority of immigrants being held in the prisons are there because they committed an immigration-related infraction, something which would never have sent you to jail 10 years ago.
The prisons are referred to as Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons and five of the 13 are in Texas. Most facilities resort to solitary confinement for minor violations, such as food or medical care complaints. One epileptic man even died in solitary confinement, allegedly lacking enough medication in his system to thrive.
Which groups benefit the most from CAR prisons?
The federal government has been prosecuting "illegal reentry" more than ever before, with cases rising over 183 percent in just under a decade. Operation Streamline was implemented by the federal government for the sole purpose of convicting offenders. This spike in prosecution has left many scratching their heads, until you dig a little deeper underneath the surface.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The Geo Group are the two largest prison companies in America and they benefit directly from their involvement in CAR prisons. While both corporations have spent a great deal of money in lobbying efforts, they deny that their goal is to work for or against Operation Streamline.
According to one source, immigrants cost between $50 and $75 each day as charged by private prisons. Companies like CCA and The Geo Group then make between 20 and 30 percent in sheer profit from these fees. Why wouldn't they want an influx of immigrants to fill the beds? According to immigration lawyer Randeep Hira, there has even been legislation which imposes rules to keep the private prisons filled. "The American taxpayers probably are not aware that the private prison industry is by far the biggest beneficiary of the federal government's immigration enforcement efforts," Hira says. "Companies such as GEO and CCA rake in millions in profits from taxpayers while families are torn apart and loved ones are detained and deported. In fact, the prison industry has guaranteed continued profits by successfully lobbying Congress to pass a quota which requires ICE to keep a minimum of 34,000 immigrants in detention per day."
Do CAR prisons actually save taxpayers any money?
Surprisingly, the idea of CAR prisons actually emerged with the Clinton administration in 1993 as a way to save money. Even more shocking, opposition greeted the initial proposal. When the powers-that-be came around, the former deputy attorney general said his colleagues firmly believed CAR prisons would be cheaper and more effective. He tends to disagree.
It is difficult to actually determine whether these prisons are saving taxpayers any money, because minimal cost comparison data exists to find out. The Private Prison Information Act, a bill intended to force private companies to be more forthcoming with their finances, died in 2007.
Unfortunately, the records of private prison companies are typically exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Both CCA and GEO would not comment on whether they actively opposed the 2007 bill.
Human Lives Affected by Prion Conditions
One study found that CAR prisons perpetuate prisoner neglect and abuse. Prisoners themselves commented on the use of solitary confinement and isolation cells, often for prisoners who help others prepare grievances and lawsuits. GEO and CCA refuted the claims and spoke highly of the safety and security that exists within the facilities.
One prison saw four inmate deaths occur in 2008, including the epileptic man mentioned above. He was placed in solitary confinement for better medical care, but died because the exact opposite occurred. His family filed a lawsuit against the prison for multiple reasons related to medical negligence. The man's death provoked two riots in the prison, costing the facility over $20 million in damages.
So for many immigrants and taxpayers, CAR prisons may be doing more harm than good. Much of the problem stems from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement quota, which currently requires at least 34,000 immigrants to be locked up at a time. Until this quota is lowered or eliminated altogether, it seems that private prison companies will continue to thrive.