In September, ThinkProgress published an investigation into the prison industry’s role in helping enact SB1070, the anti-immigrant racial profiling law passed in Arizona. We charted the role of the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America, which builds and manages immigrant detention centers, in assisting SB1070 sponsor State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) and how lobbyists from the company work closely with Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ), who signed the bill into law. Private prison companies have funneled money to legislators sponsoring SB1070 copycat bills across the country, and the industry is using a corporate front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to help lawmakers in Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania to create anti-immigrant laws to encourage police to arrest more immigrants and people of color. Today, NPR followed up with a story about the role of the prison industry-funded ALEC in crafting Arizona’s law, and how ALEC appears to be continuing its strategy in states like Maryland:
Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law. They even named it. They called it the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.” “ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group,” said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting. Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.
Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.” Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce’s immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.
As ThinkProgress’ investigation revealed, detention numbers in private-run immigrant jails have sank in the past few years. If the private prison industry, along with their allies in the Republican Party, is successful in passing new SB1070-like laws in other states, private prisons may see a boost in their profits when greater numbers of people are sent to prison.