Below are excerpts from a Newsweek article from a couple of months ago. In researching new bills that are being introduced in States across the US, we’re seeing a trend towards privatization of the prison systems. If you were wondering why… wonder no further.
Updated | Within the Texas legislature, a controversial bill is pending. A private prisons company called the GEO Group has allegedly asked Republicans to submit a law that could lead to immigrant children being indefinitely detained in its lucrative centers.
Representatives John Raney, John Cyrier and Mark Keough—all Republicans—have authored legislation that, if passed, would allow immigration detention centers to obtain child care licenses. Equipped with the permits, the centers would then be able to circumvent a 2015 federal ruling that said detained immigrant children must be transferred to a child care facility after 20 days in detention.
Raney, Cyrier and Keough’s bill would not require the detention centers to change their setups, but it could significantly benefit them. The GEO Group, which runs the Karnes Residential Center—one of two family detention facilities in Texas—earns $55 million annually from the facility.
This perhaps explains why the GEO Group—despite having a Greek immigrant, George Zoley as its CEO—is so keen to see Raney, Cyrier and Keough’s bill pass. So keen, in fact, that the organization essentially wrote it. “I’ve known the lady who’s [the GEO Group’s] lobbyist for a long time,” Raney told the Associated Press. That’s where the legislation came from. We don’t make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help.”
In August 2016, the then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the Obama administration would begin phasing out private prisons. In a memo about the plan, Yates said that the U.S. prison population had dropped from 220,000 people in 2013 to 195,000. As a result, the Department of Justice did not need to rely on private prisons, which had held 15 percent of all prisoners in 2013. The declining number of inmates, Yates said, “means that we can better allocate our resources to ensure that inmates are in the safest facilities and receiving the best rehabilitative services.”
On August 19, the day after Yates’ announcement, GEO Corrections Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of the GEO Group, donated $100,000 to the pro-Trump PAC Rebuilding America Now. Then, on November 1 —seven days before the presidential election— it gave another $125,000 to the organization.
In addition, GEO Corrections Holding Inc. had donated $200,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican PAC, on September 27, 2016, and $100,000 to the Conservative Solutions PAC on April 17, 2015.
Despite the ongoing complaint, for the moment, the GEO Group has won: The candidate it backed is now in the White House. When Trump began sourcing donations for his inauguration festivities, the GEO Group, and Core Civic (The U.S.’ largest private-prisons contractor, the GEO Group is the second-largest) each gave $250,000.
The GEO Group seems to have benefited from its generosity. In July 2015, under the Obama administration, it submitted a bid to build a 1,000-bed immigration detention center in Texas that would replace the Houston Contract Detention Facility run by its competitor Core Civic. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not answer a question from Newsweek about why the Obama administration didn’t award the contract).
Then, in April, the Trump administration said the GEO Group would build the center, which it anticipates will generate $44 million a year in revenue. It was a move that angered the company’s opponents. In March, the GEO Group had been served with a class action lawsuit, alleging that it had violated the constitution and anti-slavery laws by forcing around 60,000 current and former immigrants to work for less than a dollar a day at its detention center in Colorado.