Saturday, January 19, 2019

Paying to be jailed

The U.S. for-profit prison industry has exploded over the past two decades. In 2016, 128,300 people - roughly 1 in 12 U.S. prisoners - were incarcerated in private jails. That is an increase of 47 percent from 2000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Geo Group and CoreCivic together manage over half of U.S. private prison contracts, with combined revenues of nearly $4 billion in 2017. 

Trump's immigration polices have been a boon for the industry.
ICE is the No. 1 customer by revenue for both companies. In 2019, the number of people in ICE detention has averaged 45,200 daily. That is up nearly 19 percent from 2017. Stock prices for the two companies are up about 30 percent since Trump's election. 

The government pays private prison companies fees ranging from roughly $60 to $130 daily for the care and feeding of each detainee. At CoreCivic's Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, which houses about 1,700 undocumented immigrants, ICE pays a per diem of $62.03 for each detainee housed there. CoreCivic's revenue from Stewart alone was $38 million last year.
Immigrants and activists say facilities such as Adelanto, owned by Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group Inc , the nation's largest for-profit corrections company, deliberately skimp on essentials, even food, to coerce detainees to labor for pennies an hour to supplement meager rations. Relatives can send money electronically to fund their loved ones' commissary accounts, for fees that can reach as high as 10 percent of the amount deposited. But for many immigrant detainees, scrubbing toilets or mopping floors is the only way they say they can earn enough to stay clean and fed. Detainees are challenging what they say is an oppressive business model in which the companies deprive them of essentials to force them to work for sub-minimum wages, money that is soon recaptured in the firms' own commissaries. A can of commissary tuna sold for $3.25. That is more than four times the price at a Target store. Ramen noodles at 58 cents a package, double the Target price. $11.02 for a 4 oz. tube of Sensodyne toothpaste, available on for $5.20. Dove soap priced at $2.44 at the commissary is available for just over a dollar at Target. A 2.5 oz tube of Effergrip denture cream that sells for $4.99 at Walmart is $7.12 at the commissary.
In November, 11 U.S. senators sent letters to Geo Group and CoreCivic lambasting the "perverse profit incentive at the core of the private prison business," which has benefited from a crackdown on illegal immigrants under Trump. The senators cited a December 2017 report from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General documenting problems at lockups contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The inspector general found spoiled, moldy and expired food, and cited detainees' complaints that hygiene products were "not provided promptly or at all," the report said.

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