PRIVATE PRISONS BUILD EMPIRE ON IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN Chris Kirkham reports: On a flat and desolate stretch of Interstate 10 some 50 miles south of Phoenix,Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2012View SourcePRIVATE PRISONS BUILD EMPIRE ON IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWNChris Kirkham reports:"On a flat and desolate stretch of Interstate 10 some 50 miles south of Phoenix, a sheriff's deputy pulls over a green Chevy Tahoe speeding westbound and carrying three young Hispanic men.
"The man behind the wheel produces no driver's license or registration. The deputy notices $1,000 in cash stuffed in the doorframe -- payment, he presumes, for completed passage from Mexico. He radios the sheriff's immigration enforcement team, summoning agents from the U.S. Border Patrol. Soon, the three men are ushered into the back of a white van with a federal seal.
"This routine traffic stop represents the front end of an increasingly lucrative commercial enterprise: the business of incarcerating immigrant detainees, the fastest-growing segment of the American prison population. The three men loaded into the van offer fresh profit opportunities for the nation's swiftly expanding private prison industry, which has in recent years captured the bulk of this commerce through federal contracts. By filling its cells with undocumented immigrants caught in the web of increased border security, the industry has seen its revenues swell at taxpayer expense.
"The convergence of the people on the Interstate on this recent afternoon, as well as the profits that flow from imprisoning immigrants, are in part the result of concerted efforts by the private prison industry to tilt immigration detention policies in its favor, a Huffington Post investigation has shown.
"In Washington, the industry's lobbyists have influenced policy to secure growing numbers of federal inmates in its facilities, while encouraging Congress to increase funding for detention bedspace. Here in this southern Arizona community, private prison companies share the spoils of their business with the local government, effectively giving area law enforcement an incentive to apprehend as many undocumented immigrants as they can.
"This confluence of forces has contributed to a doubling of the ranks of immigrant detainees, to about 400,000 a year. Nearly half are now held in private prisons, up from one-fourth a decade ago, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The two largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc., have more than doubled their revenues from the immigrant detention business since 2005, according to securities filings.Prisons have become a central part of the economy in Florence and Pinal County, Ariz.
"CCA spokesman Mike Machak acknowledges that immigrant detention 'has been an important part of our business since our inception," but adds that the company does not attempt to influence detention policy through its lobbying. He says the company is proud of its work and has built its reputation through "providing quality services at cost savings to our government partner.'Prisons fan out on the horizon as drivers enter Florence, Ariz.
"CCA has always worked to educate decision makers on the merits and benefits of public-private partnerships to meet their expressed need for detention space and services," Machak says. "It is CCA's longstanding policy not to draft, lobby for or in any way promote crime, sentencing or detention legislation."
GEO Group declined to comment for this report.Arizona Department of Corrections inmates work fields near the prison complex in Florence, Ariz.
Americans have grown accustomed to the crackdown on illegal immigration as part of the fabric of contemporary political debate, one in which Arizona's strict enforcement posture frequently captures attention. The private prison industry has exploited the crackdown as something else: a lucrative business model.
"The policy in this country has changed from catch and release to more detention," CCA's former board chairman, William Andrews, told investors in 2006, according to the transcript of an upbeat earnings call. "That means we'll be incarcerating more illegal aliens."Arizona Department of Corrections inmates work fields near the prison complex in Florence, Ariz.
The success of the industry in growing revenues through undocumented immigrant detention has in part resulted from two distinct campaigns -- one in Washington, and the other in local communities such as this one, where prisoners are housed. Rural towns and counties have eagerly embraced the arrival of immigrant prisoners for the attendant economic benefits, including tax revenues and jobs.Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu examines one of the seized weapons after a news conference last fall, as a variety of law enforcement agencies announced a bust on a major drug smuggling ring in Arizona.
"For small towns that are economically depressed, this is attractive," says Travis Pratt, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University who has studied the private prison industry. "It's an influx of public money immediately. There doesn't need to be a delay."Pinal County Sheriff's Office deputies confer after the apprehension of suspected undocumented immigrants driving on Interstate 10.Private prisons build empire on immigration crackdown - what are your comments?Greg Dempseyhttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/SECULARHUMANIST/
Voice of the People======
Private Prisons Profit From Immigration Crackdown, Federal And Local Law Enforcement Partnerships
White prison buses with caged windows appear on cactus-lined local highways more frequently than school buses. The growing concentration of prisoners has led some to rename this "Penal County."
The expanding prison populations have allowed small towns to carry budget surpluses in a state that has otherwise been pummeled by the recession. Prison communities have largely avoided the dire economic straits suffered by Arizona communities in every direction, where the housing bust and subsequent foreclosure crisis have ravaged local government coffers.
In the town of Florence -- which has a prison population of more than 17,000, plus 7,800 residents who are not behind bars -- more than 40 percent of the local government's general fund comes from state revenues directly related to housing inmates, according to Jess Knudson, the deputy town manager. That has allowed the local government to offer highly popular services for seniors and build skate parks, dog parks and little league fields throughout town.
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