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Private Prison CEOs ‘Pleased’ Their Earnings Soared From Keeping Immigrant Kids In Detention

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY, FILE
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY, FILE

During separate conference calls to talk about earnings reports, two of the country’s largest for-profit private prisons indicated that they saw their profits soar from holding immigrant mothers and children in detention centers across the country.

Revenues increased during the first quarter of 2016 for both the Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, executives told shareholders on conference calls.

CCA saw a revenue of $447.4 million, a 5 percent increase from last year’s first quarter. The company’s press release attributed much of that increase to a federal contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

“We are pleased with our first quarter financial performance, which exceeded our first quarter guidance…” CCA chief executive officer Damon Hininger said in a press release. “Our financial performance was driven primarily by stronger than anticipated demand from our federal partners, most notably Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

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The statement went on to say that the increase in profits was “primarily attributable” to its contract with the South Texas Family Residential Center. Located in Dilley, Texas, that detention center primarily houses Central American mothers and children who fled violence and poverty in their home countries and are now waiting to come before an immigration judge who will determine whether they get to stay in the U.S. or get deported back. The facility has a 2,400-bed capacity.

Similarly, the GEO Group reported a 17 percent increase, or $136 million, from the previous year, in part because of a 626-bed expansion at the Karnes residential center, another family immigration detention center located in Texas.

Immigration advocates say that both the Karnes facility and the Dilley facility are plagued with ongoing human rights issues that often go unaddressed — and, because they hold children, they have been likened to “baby jails.” At Karnes, some immigrant mothers and children were allegedly kept in a dark medical infirmary which acted as a solitary confinement cell. One advocate compared the Dilley facility to her time in a Japanese internment camp.

“It’s sickening to hear CCA and GEO brag about their profitable quarter to shareholders,” Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said in a press release. “That money is made off the suffering of mothers and children who came to the U.S. for refuge.”

Because of a “bed quota,” the federal government has required anywhere between 30,000 and 34,000 beds be provided on a daily basis to detain immigrants so that they would show up to their court proceedings. The contract with private prison companies costs taxpayers roughly $160 per day.