Welcome to the Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.
This week’s inductee is the United States Congress. Even as lawmakers have been unable to extend a payroll tax break for working Americans and unemployment insurance for those out of work, they have been able to provide a benefit for one group this holiday season – private prison corporations that benefit from the detention of immigrants.
Last Saturday, December 17th, Congress agreed on funding for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2012. While the measure actually reduces overall spending by the department by $111 million, it increases Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s by more than $50 million from Fiscal Year 2011. The increase includes an allocation for 34,000 daily immigration detention beds, up from 33,400 last year. As Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services puts it in a recent press release:
“If Congress is trying to reduce the federal deficit, why are they going to increase immigration detention?” said Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Director for Advocacy. “Instead Congress should invest in proven alternatives that are cheaper, more humane, and more effective.”
Those extra 600 beds are likely to be operated by private prison corporations. That’s because ICE largely contracts for-profit prison corporations and county jails to detain immigrants. In fact, research Grassroots Leadership published with the Detention Watch Network shows that 47% of all detention beds are operated by for-profit corporations. What’s more, private prison corporations like GEO Group and Corrections Corporations of America have spent millions lobbying the federal government on immigration-related issues.
And, that lobbying is paying off. Troubled rivate prison corporation GEO Group was recently awarded a contract to operate ICE’s new “civil” detention center in Karnes County, Texas. And, Corrections Corporation of America is trying to win a contract for a new facility in South Florida, but is meeting stiff community resistance. Just yesterday, community groups in New Jersey published a report about the role of campaign donations in winning an ICE-contracted detention center by private prison company Community Education Centers.
Here’s hoping that organizing will bring us a happier new year and fewer for-profit detention centers. To help make that happen, keep up to date by following Grassroots Leadership on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, or making a donation to keep resistance, education, and organizing going.