Panel Suggests For-Profit Prisons for Immigration Detainees

(ESPAÑOL) Immigration authorities should continue holding people accused of immigration violations in for-profit prisons despite complaints about safety and other problems, a Department of Homeland Security review panel has concluded after examining the issue.

In a 23-page report released Thursday, the panel said eliminating them would cost too much and make it harder for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to cope with sudden surges in the detainee population.

Using a mix of private and public facilities to house detainees now costs $3 billion a year. Using only government-run prisons would cost up to $6 billion, the panel found.

But Marshall Fitz, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress who helped draft the report, wrote a dissent saying evidence “points directly toward the inferiority of the private prison model.”

The report passed the advisory council, although 17 of the 23 members signed on to Fitz’s dissent. Only five voted to pass the report as written. One voted against approval.

The report is good news for the firms that now operate immigration detention centers, which have seen their business prospects brighten as investors count on a steady flow of new detainees.

The stock price for CoreCivic, the new name for the Corrections Corp. of America, the largest private prison company in the world, has increased 67% since last month’s election.

The value of GEO Group stock, another private prison company with immigration detention centers, has risen 40%.

Both companies saw their stocks tank in August after the Department of Justice announced plans to phase out its use of private prisons.

Though both companies have contracts with other government entities — including cities and states —  the federal government, and ICE in particular, is their biggest customer. Contracts with ICE accounted for 24% of CoreCivic’s revenue last year and nearly 18% of GEO Group’s.

In a statement, GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said the review “confirms our long history of providing culturally responsive, safe and humane environments that meet the non-penal needs of those individuals entrusted to the care of ICE.”

But civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations say the facilities are likely to only get more crowded once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump has vowed a vastly harsher regime of immigration enforcement.

Advocates say the government should expand supervised release and other alternatives to detention.