Like Countable?

Install the App

Tell Your Reps: Should Private Companies Run Immigration Detention Centers?

Do you support ICE's use of private detention centers?

by Countable | 12.28.18

What’s the story?

  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) paid more than $800 million in taxpayer money to 19 private, for-profit immigration detention centers in 2018.
  • An investigation by The Daily Beast found that ICE was paying the private prisons to house around 18,000 migrants, or about 41 percent of the 44,000 total migrants being held by the agency.

What’s the concern?

  •  Private prison companies donated over $1.6 million - mostly to GOP candidates - during the November midterm elections. 
  • The Dallas News discovered that the GEO Group, which runs one of the country’s largest private immigration detention centers, is a top donor for two Texas congressmen. It also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Trump-aligned super PAC and hosted its annual conference at one of Trump’s golf resorts.
  • GEO expects its earnings to grow to $2.3 billion this year

How private prisons work

  • Private prisons receive stipends from the government to manage and operate detention facilities.
  • In order to receive the stipend, the private-prison’s costs must be lower than that of a public prison.
“And just like any business, the more costs they can cut, the bigger that profit margin will be,” CNBC wrote. “But many times, that results in poor quality of care for prisoners.”

 What are both sides saying?


  • “Ensuring there are sufficient beds available to meet the current demand for detention space is crucial to the success of ICE’s overall mission,” said ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett.
“Accordingly, the agency is continually reviewing its detention requirements and exploring options that will afford ICE the operational flexibility needed to house the full range of detainees in the agency’s custody.”


  • Mary Small of the Detention Watch Network told The Daily Beast that the public still lacks “incredibly basic information about immigration detention and how private prison companies are profiting from it.”
  • “Even though billions of taxpayer dollars are being obligated to private prison companies, the contracts between them and the federal government aren't publicly available, so we don't know how much these companies are being paid, how many people they're holding or how long their contracts last,” Small said.
“This culture of secrecy—bolstered by revolving door politics and political contributions—have paved the way for a rapid and reckless expansion of the detention system.”

 What do you think?

Do you support the federal government’s use of private detention centers? Or should the Department of Justice phase out existing contracts with private prison and detention companies? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Flickr)


Written by Countable

Leave a comment