Stocks for private prison companies have surged in the two weeks since President Trump signed an executive order calling for expansion of immigrant detention facilities at or near the border with Mexico, specifically authorizing the use of private contractors “to construct, operate, or control facilities” in what is expected to be a substantial ramp-up of the massive detention system that thrived under the Obama administration, the Los Angeles Times reports. With the number of immigrant detainees already at historic levels, critics warn that rapidly expanding prisons will only exacerbate squalid living conditions and substandard medical care. The big beneficiaries, they say, will be stockholders and executives of for-profit prison companies.
Carl Takei of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, predicts “an enormous boondoggle for the private prison industry.” He said, “The immigration system already lacks rigorous oversight and transparency, and now there’s this perfect storm — a push to rapidly expand the system, a lack of existing oversight and the profit motive driving these companies.” Private companies provide immigrant detention at a lower cost: about $144 per inmate a day, versus $184 in federally run Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. Immigrant attorneys and human rights groups have long argued the profit motive spurs private companies to cut corners and cram inmates into shoddy and overcrowded facilities. For critics, Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Tx., is Exhibit A in the case against private detention centers. Not long before it was forced to close in 2015, the ACLU dubbed it a “physical symbol of everything that is wrong with enriching the private prison industry and criminalizing immigration.”