Private prison companies profiting from Trump’s treatment of families seeking asylum

If private prison companies can’t be trusted to house people convicted of crimes, why on earth are they being trusted to look after children?

Ottawa (27 June 2018) — The decision of the Trump administration to separate parents and children caught crossing the U.S. border illegally has appalled people around the world. Donald Trump’s executive order of June 20, which replaces the policy of separating children with one of detaining entire families is no better. But for private prison companies, policies that increase the number of immigrants being detained mean larger profits.

74 per cent of immigrants detained in the United States are in facilities operated by private prison companies. That means a large portion of the $2.7 billion that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expects to spend on detaining immigrants in 2018 will go to private prison companies.

Private prison companies donated to Trump inauguration and pro-Trump super-PAC

GEO Group and CoreCivic, the 2 largest private prison companies in the United States, each donated $250,000 to Donald Trump’s inauguration. During the 2016 election, a GEO Group subsidiary donated $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC (political action committee).

That support has been repaid. In addition to reversing the Obama administration's plan to phase out the use of private prisons, Trump’s immigration policies mean more people being kept in custody and more demand for private detention facilities.

Human suffering good for private prison companies' share prices

Both GEO Group and CoreCivic have seen a boost in share prices as a result of the Trump administration’s policies. Since April, shares in GEO Group have risen by almost 35 per cent, while shares in CoreCivic are up by 23 per cent.

Investment analysts are predicting that trend will continue.

Private prison companies hoping to have entire families in custody

While Trump’s executive order means children are less likely to be separated from the parents, it is expected to mean that children will still be held for long periods of time in detention facilities with a history of serious problems. Private prison companies have already attempted to get around U.S. restrictions on imprisoning children seeking asylum by trying to get child care licenses for their detention centres. There are fears that Trump’s executive order will either make it easier for private prison companies to get child care licenses or that rules on imprisoning children will be ignored even more than they are now.

As human rights group Grassroots Leadership put it, “Locking families in detention camps with a proven history of abuse to be traumatized together instead of traumatized apart is a sick way to supposedly ‘keep families together'.”

Private prison companies have a poor track record

Private prison companies have a bad reputation, and with good reason. Safety and security problems are far more common in private prisons than in public prisons. There is also evidence that inmates in private prisons are more likely to reoffend than inmates in public prisons.

Which raises the obvious question: If private prison companies can’t be trusted to house people convicted of crimes, why on earth are they being trusted to look after children?

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE