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REAL WORLD EVENT DISCUSSIONS
One part of the economy doing REALLY well: Private prisons
Thursday, August 2, 2012 9:15 AM
Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...
Quote:The U.S. is locking up more illegal immigrants than ever, generating lucrative profits for the nation’s largest prison companies, and an Associated Press review shows the businesses have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers and contributing to campaigns.
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.
After a decade of expansion, the sprawling, private system runs detention centers everywhere from a Denver suburb to an industrial area flanking Newark’s airport, and is largely controlled by just three companies.
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.
This seismic shift toward a privatized system happened quietly. While Congress’ unsuccessful efforts to overhaul immigration laws drew headlines and sparked massive demonstrations, lawmakers’ negotiations to boost detention dollars received far less attention.
The industry’s giants — Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. — have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level in the last decade, the AP found.
GEO, which was part of The Wackenhut Corp. security firm until 2003, and Management and Training Corp. declined repeated interview requests.
“That’s a lot of money to listen quietly,” said Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, who has helped lead a campaign to encourage large banks and mutual funds to divest from the prison companies.
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.
Pedro Guzman is among those who have passed through the private detention centers. He was brought to the U.S. by his Guatemalan mother at age 8. He was working and living here legally under temporary protected status but was detained after missing an appearance for an asylum application his mother had filed for him. Officials ordered him deported.
Although he was married to a U.S. citizen, ICE considered him a flight risk and locked him up in 2009: first at a private detention facility run by CCA in Gainesville, Ga., and eventually at CCA’s Stewart Detention Center, south of Atlanta. Guzman spent 19 months in Stewart until he was finally granted legal permanent residency.
“It’s a millionaire’s business, and they are living off profits from each one of the people who go through there every single night,” said Guzman, now a cable installer in Durham, N.C. “It’s our money that we earn as taxpayers every day that goes to finance this.”
Dora Schriro, who in 2009 reviewed the nation’s detention system at the request of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said nearly every aspect had been outsourced.
“ICE was always relying on others for responsibilities that are fundamentally those of the government,” said Schriro, now the New York City Correction Commissioner. “If you don’t have the competency to know what is a fair price to ask and negotiate the most favorable rates for the best service, then the likelihood that you are going to overspend is greater.”
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.
CCA was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2000 due to lawsuits, management problems and dwindling contracts. Last year, the company reaped $162 million in net income. Federal contracts made up 43 percent of its total revenues, in part thanks to rising immigrant detention.
GEO, which cites the immigration agency as its largest client, saw its net income jump from $16.9 million to $78.6 million since 2000.
James Thurber, head of American University’s Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies, said amid the heated national debate over immigration, the companies have been savvy not to donate heavily to those sponsoring legislation, which could spark backlash.
There are more discrete and more powerful ways to influence policy, Thurber said.
“Follow the money,” he said. “If the money is being increased significantly for illegal immigration, then that is a shift in policy … a significant shift.”
The prison companies’ influence at the state level mirrors that in Washington, although the money is even harder to track since many states, such as Arizona and Illinois, where the companies have won lucrative detention contracts, don’t require corporations to disclose what they pay lobbyists.
The AP reviewed campaign contribution data from the three companies’ political action committees and their employees over the last decade, compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. From 2003 to the first half of 2012, state candidates and political parties in the 50 states received more than $5.32 million.More at http://nation.time.com/2012/08/02/immigrants-prove-big-business-for-prison-companies/ only do I hate that they are profiting like this, but the lack of transparency has led to horrific things I'm sure Frem is familiar with:
It's horrible, unconscionable, and nobody's paying attention!
Thursday, August 2, 2012 10:14 AM
Freedom is Important because People are Important
Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:54 AM
Quote:The focus of the forum was to discuss the impact of House Bill 5174, a proposal asking the State of Michigan legislators to make it a law to allow private corporations such as the Corrections Corporations of America, or CCA, and GEO (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections) to take over our public prison system. If HB 5174 passes, it will have a profound effect on the African American community as well as the broader community of Michigan.
Quote:Many of our public officials have taken a defiant stand in support of mass incarceration as a means of addressing crime, yet, mass incarceration have not proven to be a solution to crime or to safer communities. Also, there are no incentives for employees of the justice system to advocate for crime reduction because their livelihood is intricately tied to the prison system. Therefore, it only stands to reason that an entity driven by profit motives have absolutely no incentive to keep people out of prisons.
A common message conveyed by each of the presenters likened the current incarceration of African Americans to slavery. In many states, including Michigan convicted felons cannot vote, have difficulty finding employment and in many cases without strong family or community support are destined to return to prison. The mass incarceration of African Americans is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our day and private prisons will only exacerbate this problem. It is incumbent upon the African American community to “own” this problem and for the broader community to voice opposition to HB 5174. If you are opposed to private prisons, call your State Representative and/or congressmen to let them know that HB 5174 is bad public policy.
Friday, August 3, 2012 3:51 AM
Friday, August 3, 2012 5:18 AM
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