An inmate population surge in the 1980s led to the growth of for-profit prisons. Today, despite their mixed record, private prison companies are overseeing the vast majority of undocumented migrants.
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For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business

During the reporting of this story, Retro Report reached out to GEO Group, CoreCivic, and ICE to ask for their perspectives on the issues raised in the piece, either through on-camera interviews or written statements. All three provided written statements in response:

GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez’s response to Retro Report can be found here ».

On Allegations Regarding Poor Care at ICE Processing Centers

“We strongly dispute these allegations. On a daily basis, our dedicated employees deliver high quality services that comply with performance-based standards set by the Federal government and adhere to guidelines set by leading third-party accreditation agencies. Our employees are proud of our record in managing ICE Processing Centers with high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe, secure, and humane environments. Members of our team strive to treat all of those entrusted to our care with compassion, dignity and respect.”

On Allegations Regarding Care at The Adelanto ICE Processing Center

“These claims are completely baseless. The incident in question was reviewed by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement which found that the officers acted in accordance with established protocol. We will vigorously defend our company against these frivolous allegations.

The Adelanto ICE Processing Center has a long-standing record providing high-quality, culturally responsive services, including around-the-clock medical care, in a safe, secure, and humane environment. Members of our team strive to treat all of those entrusted to our care with compassion, dignity and respect.”

On Oversight

“For over three decades, our company has managed ICE Processing Centers providing high quality, culturally responsive services for individuals in the care of federal immigration authorities under both Democrat and Republican Administrations. As a longstanding service provider to the federal government, our focus has always been and remains on providing high quality services. The ICE Processing Centers operated by GEO are under constant operational oversight by full-time, on-site government monitors as well as thorough inspections by the federal government and independent accrediting organizations.”

On the 2016 OIG Report

“We believe that the 2016 announcement by the Department of Justice was based on a misrepresentation of the report issued by the Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General. The OIG report actually demonstrated that privately run facilities are at least as equally safe, secure, and humane as publicly run facilities and often more so. Furthermore, the OIG found that privately operated facilities experienced lower rates of inmate deaths, lower rates of guilty findings of inmate on inmate sexual assault, lower rates of allegations of staff against inmate sexual assault, lower rates of positive drug tests, and lower rates of overall inmate grievances.”

CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Rodney E. King’s response to Retro Report can be found here ».

1. What is the best argument for the federal government using private companies for: a) immigration detention and b) prisons?

CoreCivic plays a valued but limited role in America’s immigration system, which we have done for every administration – Democrat and Republican – for more than 30 years. Privately operated facilities are better equipped to handle changes in the flow of illegal immigration because they can open or close new facilities as needed. Inflows of undocumented immigrants can shift by hundreds of thousands of people from one year to the next, and private contractors are an important option for the government. Otherwise it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to build dozens of new detention facilities and hire tens of thousands of government employees. Taxpayers should not be left holding the bag with expensive empty facilities and an idle government bureaucracy when the country’s detention needs fluctuate. Contracts with private companies can be modified or canceled with very little notice, and the government has exercised this right frequently in the past.

While we know immigration is a highly charged, emotional issue for many people, much of the information about our company being shared by special interest groups is wrong and politically motivated, resulting in some people reaching misguided conclusions about what we do. The fact is our sole job is to help the government solve problems in ways it could not do alone – to help manage unprecedented humanitarian crises, dramatically improve the standard of care for vulnerable people, and meet other critical needs efficiently and innovatively.

Regarding prisons, when CoreCivic was founded more than 30 years ago, the court system had intervened in prisons in 41 states and the District of Columbia due to their poor conditions. Eight corrections systems had been declared unconstitutional or were operating under court order. This means that those facilities were dangerously overcrowded or failed to meet minimum standards for safe and humane conditions. From that point on, we have played a critical role for systems that are overcrowded or aging, and we have successfully partnered with federal, state and local government entities to creatively and efficiently meet their challenges in ways they could not do alone. It’s important to note that private prisons house less than 8 percent of inmates nationwide, which means we play a small but important role for the government partners who we work with.

While we’ve long been the nation’s leading provider of high-quality corrections and detention management, we’re also applying long-held strengths to deliver comprehensive real estate services and expand access to residential reentry centers. The evolution of our business reflects the changing needs and priorities of our government partners, and we bring the scale, experience and professionalism needed to take on and solve their toughest challenges in cost-effective ways. One innovative example of this is the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas. You can learn more about this project here.

2. How does CoreCivic respond to the charge that being a for-profit enterprise leads to reduced quality and lower standards of care for the immigration detainees under your supervision?

These claims are baseless and ignore the high-quality services CoreCivic provides. We have every incentive to provide outstanding service to our government partners, just as any other private business must meet and exceed the expectations of their clients. The fact that we’ve been working with the government for more than three decades is a testament to professional standards we meet every day.

To address some of the common issues that arise, I would like to direct you to a fact sheet we have posted on our website, which contrasts the myths that have been leveled against us with the facts behind our role in the immigration system.

I would also like to point out that all of our immigration facilities are required to adhere to Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS). Furthermore, we are subject to multiple levels of oversight, including regular review and audit processes and onsite monitoring, and there are currently more than 500 ICE officials assigned to our eight ICE-contracted facilities. For specific details regarding PBNDS, please contact ICE Public Affairs.

It’s unfortunate that critics attack the benefits we provide without themselves providing any solutions to the serious challenges our country faces on immigration.

3. The ACLU says that the top three private prison companies – including CoreCivic – have a record of abuse and neglect at immigration detention centers and prisons, in part because the companies are incentivized to maximize shareholder return. How does CoreCivic respond?

CoreCivic maintains a high standard of care for detainees. Contracts between CoreCivic and our government partners explicitly outline standards of care that are to be met.

CoreCivic takes all charges of abuse and neglect very seriously. For that reason, we provide a robust grievance and appeals process that inmates or detainees can use to report any suspected incident without fear of repercussion. Grievances can be communicated through a variety of channels including in-facility reporting, a company-wide hotline accessible anonymously internally and externally, or directly to our government partners.

Furthermore, our company is subject to robust oversight and accountability measures. Most of our government partners have full-time, onsite monitors in our facilities to ensure accountability and ease of communication, and all require regular review and audit processes. Our facilities are also scrutinized by the American Correctional Association, which thoroughly audits our buildings, staff, and services.

Finally, CoreCivic has a detailed Human Rights Policy that clearly outlines our commitments regarding resident rights and treatment, including legal rights, safety and security, healthcare, reentry programming, visitation and standards of living.

4. Why do federal contract prisons provide fewer services than BOP-run facilities? Do your federal contracts require the same level of rehabilitation services as at BOP facilities?

In order to answer this question fully, it is important to understand the context of our relationship with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). CoreCivic contracts with the BOP to house low security criminal aliens who have been convicted of a federal felony offense. Deportation of criminal aliens following their incarceration is handled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. CoreCivic and the BOP have developed expectations, directions, and standards to best accommodate the unique needs of these inmates. Everything we provide for inmates is encompassed by our contracts with the BOP, and we are contractually bound to fulfill the requirements to the last detail. Additionally, all of our BOP facilities are required to meet the standards of the independent American Correctional Association. These standards, which are recognized as industry best practices by both public and private facilities, can be found here.

In terms of specific services, we provide a wide range of opportunities for criminal aliens serving their time in our BOP-contracted facilities, including:

Education – Adult Basic Education I, II, III; ESL-English as a Second Language; General Education Development (GED) training and testing; INEA training (the Mexican equivalent to GED)

Vocational Training – ServSafe course (certifies proficiency in food handling and preparation); Carpentry; Electrical Wiring; Computer Literacy; Horticulture; and Life Skills

Personal Development: Re-Entry and Release Readiness Life Skills; Anger Management; Group Therapy; Stress Therapy; Substance Abuse programming, including Alcohol and Drug Classes

Hobby Craft – Woodworking; Leatherworking; Crochet; Beadwork; Paint Projects

Fitness, exercise and music equipment, and religious services are also provided.

5. A former ICE official says that in his time with the agency, he received complaints that detainees at private facilities were being mistreated and believed that the company’s priority was not to meet the highest standards. He also states that the government’s monitoring has fallen short. How does CoreCivic respond to his statements?

With all due respect, this is vague and provides no detail around what this individual is alleging (e.g., what kind of mistreatment is he alleging; what were the complaints from detainees; at what facility and when did this occur; etc.). If there are any specific allegations, we would welcome the opportunity to respond to them. Without knowing the source, context or other details, however, what I can tell you is that we care deeply about the people entrusted to us and work hard to provide them with a safe, humane and appropriate environment while they prepare for the next steps in their immigration process.

ICE’s response to Retro Report can be found here ».

Here’s how our facilities are broken down by type:

As of April 2018, ICE used 205 authorized adult detention facilities (not including family facilities) to house 92% of the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) ADP, including:

· 5 government-owned Service Processing Centers (SPC), housing 8% of the FY18 ADP. SPCs are staffed by a combination of federal and contract staff. (FY18 ADP 3,208 detainees)

· 8 Contract Detention Facilities (CDF), housing 17% of FY18 ADP. CDFs are facilities owned by a private company and contracted directly with the federal government. (FY18 ADP 6,986 detainees)

· 12 dedicated Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSA) facilities, housing 26% of FY18 ADP. Dedicated IGSA facilities enable ICE to contract with a local government entity for exclusive use of the facility, and the local governmental entity contracts for facility staffing/operations. (FY18 ADP 10,731 detainees)

· 85 non-dedicated IGSAs, housing 23% of FY18 ADP. At non-dedicated IGSAs ICE will contract for partial use of the facility. (FY18 ADP 9,410 detainees)

· 95 facilities with a USMS Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), housing 18% of FY18 ADP. At USMS IGA facilities, ICE obtains bed space through an existing agreement that each facility maintains with the USMS. (FY18 ADP 7,215 detainees)

· Most of the non-dedicated IGSAs and IGAs are county jails; however, 50% of these facilities will have an ADP of less than 10 detainees.

· The remaining 8% of FY18 ADP are housed in Family, BOP, hospitals, and infrequently used facilities with low populations. (FY18 ADP 3,298 detainees)

ICE uses these various kinds of facilities to meet the agency’s detention needs while achieving the highest possible cost savings for the taxpayer.

The programming and conditions at ICE SPCs, CDFs and dedicated IGSAs in large part exceed the conditions at many of the non-dedicated IGSAs and/or county jails that hold detainees. These facilities are operated to house only immigration detainees and are subject to the 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards.

ICE currently has either permanent or roving staff at 54 CDFs, dedicated IGSAs and non-dedicated IGSAs, housing 71 percent of the FY 2018 total ADP. The ICE staff monitors conditions of confinement on a daily basis and ensures these facilities are meeting the ICE detention standards and other contractual requirements.

The ICE Average Daily Population (ADP) as of 9/8/18 was 42,063.

Why did the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the predecessor to ICE, become the first federal agency to contract with private prison companies? Why does ICE continue to use private companies for these services today? Does it matter that immigration detention has become so heavily privatized?

ICE uses various kinds of facilities to meet the agency’s detention needs while achieving the highest possible cost savings for the taxpayer.

What percentage of immigrant detainees are sent to facilities owned and/or operated by private prison corporations and do you expect that to change this year? What was the percentage in 2008?

We don’t break down the data that way. I have given you what I have. For data from 2008, you’ll need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request.

We interviewed a number of people who approach the topic from different perspectives. One interviewee is former ICE Deputy Director Alonzo Peña, who served from 2008 to 2010. Mr. Peña states that he believes that it was not the priority of private companies to ensure that the highest standards were met. He said there were complaints of mistreatment by guards, abuse of women and poor medical care at private facilities and that ICE monitoring of them fell short. How does ICE respond?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care. We hold our personnel and contractors to the highest standards of professional and ethical behavior and the agency takes all allegations of misconduct seriously. When we receive a complaint, we investigate the matter thoroughly to determine its veracity and to ensure the world-class standards, that ICE is required to follow under various national detention standards, are being strictly maintained.

ICE is a defendant in a lawsuit (Rivera Martinez et al v. The GEO Group, Inc., et al. Case No.: 5:18-cv-1125). Do you have any response to the allegations made by the detainees at Adelanto Detention Facility about their treatment?

[ICE] does not comment on pending litigation.

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For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business The New York Times