While President Biden’s Jan. 26 executive order was a significant step toward racial equity and immigrant and racial justice, it excluded phasing out ICE’s private contracts. That critical omission affects thousands: According to advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), more than 80% of ICE detainees are jailed in for-profit facilities owned by private prison profiteers like CoreCivic and GEO Group.
In addition to phasing out the government’s use of private prisons, Grijalva’s legislation also “prevents companies from overcharging inmates and their families for services like banking and phone calls and increases oversight of immigrant detention facilities to ensure humane treatment,” his office continued. His office said that a 2016 report from the Department of Justice’s watchdog found that private prisons in fact had higher rates of violent assaults compared to federally operated facilities.
“It’s increasingly recognized that private prisons cut corners, endanger corrections officers and prisoners, and do not save money,” his office continued. The legislation would further end the inhumane jailing of immigrant families in dangerous facilities, and revive a massively successful alternative to detention piloted under the Obama-Biden administration, but then rescinded by the previous administration. According to Immigration Impact, children and parents in the Family Case Management Program (FCMP) had “nearly perfect compliance. The program had compliance rates over 99% with both ICE check-ins and immigration court appearances.”
“Family detention is traumatizing, ineffective, and unsafe,” Grijalva said. “We have a duty to end this inhumane system and instead institute alternatives to detention that are rooted in our values. Family case management programs treat asylum-seeking families with the respect and dignity they deserve, instead of viewing them as a profit source. These are the programs we should be funding instead of writing a blank check to a private prison corporation.”
Private prison profiteers have known on which side their bread is buttered. Like I’ve previously noted, prison profiteers’ stocks soared following the previous administration coming to power. Sure enough, that administration jailed record numbers of immigrants (and in defiance of congressional limits). ”The Trump administration has expanded the use of private prison companies in the immigration detention system,” the ACLU said in its report last year. Following Biden’s Jan. 26 executive order, their stocks tumbled.
“ICE detention is designed to dehumanize and to profit off of predominantly Black, Brown and Indigenous people,” immigration attorney Laura Rivera said last month. “And it’s clear that private prison companies have created perverse incentives to incarcerate as many immigrants as possible, for as long as possible.” Any path to a just and humane immigration system must also include an end to private prison contracts.
“Unfortunately, the private prison industry continues to expand its scope of operations and influence and spend millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to weasel their way into new profits streams that include providing ‘restorative’ services that are traditionally performed by community and nonprofit organizations,” Grijalva continued. “With positive steps taken at the federal level to end our reliance on private prisons and detention centers, Congress must take the important step to end it once and for all. Now is the time to act.”