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Immigration Law

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses - We Have Private Prisons to Fill

"Traditionally, the Bureau of Prisons has run its own facilities, but if you’re a low-security immigrant you’re almost certainly going to do time in one of 13 privately operated prisons. Just three for-profit companies—Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and MTC—control the market for incarcerating “criminal aliens.”

Six of these private prisons are located in Texas. Their hosts: impoverished rural communities desperate for the jobs.

These prisons house mostly individuals sentenced for immigration crimes. While BOP-run facilities tend to be well-operated with few scandals, private “criminal alien” prisons in Texas and elsewhere have been rocked by riots, corruption scandals, inmate deaths, and cases of inadequate medical care and abuse.

The cost to the taxpayer for incarcerating 70,000 non-citizens for immigration crimes now tops $1 billion a year.

Privately held MTC’s 10-year contract with the federal government is worth up to $532 million. Even better, the Bureau of Prisons pays MTC at least $45 million a year regardless of how many inmates the Raymondville prison is holding. That works out to about $50 per day per inmate.

Although MTC doesn’t file public reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, its two main competitors, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group do. In CCA’s most recent annual filing, the company notes that since 2001 the number of federal inmates held in private facilities has surged by nearly 150 percent. An expanding market in federal prisoners is good news for private-prison companies—especially at a time when state prison populations are stagnant or even declining.

As federal lockups grow, so have the companies’ profits. CCA’s revenue has grown 46 percent since 2005. And the company, which runs the Eden Detention Center in Eden, Texas, has managed to wring more out of each of its prisoners. CCA reports that its margins have ballooned 50 percent since 2005, from $12.80 earned per prisoner per day to $18.23. GEO Group’s revenue from its corrections and detention division increased from $572 million in 2005, when the criminalization of immigrants began, to more than $975 million in 2012—a 70 percent increase." - Forrest Wilder, The Texas Observer, May 1, 2013.