While many American industries are slowing down, the private prison industry is booming. Much of that is attributed to their lobbying efforts, which some say create the condition for mass incarceration.
The private prison lobby has had major influence in places like Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Utah and Alabama, states which have recently passed some of the strictest anti-immigrant policies.
Policies, which would likely help fill those prison cells.
Newlyweds Hope and Nazri Mustakim were living the American dream. Their dream, which was quickly shattered by immigration agents after Nazri’s US residency was suddenly revoked because of a 4-year-old drug conviction.
“There were four agents standing in my bedroom,” said Hope Musakim. “It just felt like a nightmare,” she added.
Nazri – an immigrant from Singapore – was hauled off to the South Texas Detention Center run by Geo Group, the second largest prison contractor in America.
Geo, along with Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, have contracts with Immigrations and Customs enforcement. Together their annual revenue is 3 billion dollars. Both Geo and CCA have repeatedly been accused of lobbying for tougher immigration policies in order to keep their cells full.
“We’re giving it to corporations. They’re hijacking our legislators, they’re hijacking our government and they’re pushing for their own particular agenda to make money,” said Alex Caballero, an activist with Brave New Foundation.
Private prisons are making millions off the crackdown of undocumented immigrants, they basically manage every aspect of a detainee’s life, just like a government prison, except that contractors are doing it for a profit.
CCA and GEO are not the only private companies making a killing off of our border security infrastructure.
Wells Fargo is reported to have millions in shares in private prisons.
Security contractor 4GS boasts about their ability to transport hundreds of thousands of detainees every year.
‘They’ve detained me 8 or 10 times,” said Oscar, an undocumented nursery worker in California. “They caught me so many time, they thought I was a smuggler.”
But as Oscar’s final success in settling in America shows, the billions of dollars spent on private contractors to build a border wall and on high tech monitoring equipment have not stopped the flow.
“The homeland security mentality, the lobbyists are really paving the way for many more contracts for private companies to have with the US to ensure that there’s always this system of fueling more walls,” said human rights activist Pedro Rios.
Those multimillion dollar contracts come at tax payer expense of course. Private prisons receive up to 200 dollars a day per detainee. A record 390,000 immigrant detainees passed through the system just in 2010.
What they want is to increase profits, so they’ll cut medical care and cut services. They hire unqualified personnel. When that happens, it turns into abuse and results in a systematic abuse of detainees across the country.
There have been reports of abuse and even deaths at privately run immigration facilities.
It is a system, however, which is only expected to expand as long a profits dictate the immigration debate.
The private prison system is very interested, and has been since the beginning, about toughening laws, regulations on immigrants because they understood very early on that this was very big business
Juan Jose Gutierrez is aware of the situation. Gutierrez, of Vamos Unidos, USA, told RT that “essentially what we have is a whole web that involves the private prison system on the one hand, conservative politicians on the other, working hand in hand through professional lobbyists to make sure that the Congress of the United States keeps allocating monies so that the private prison system continues to expand.”
Gutierrez added that as a result, “not only has the prison system expanded, but immigrants are now being imprisoned for longer and longer periods of time because the longer they stay in prison, the more money those private contactors get from the federal government.”