Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rights advocates demonstrate outside the GEO Group's "Immigrant Processing Center" in Aurora, Colo. (Photo: Justin Valas/flickr/cc)

In 'Tacit Admission' of Cruelty, DHS Says It Too May End For-Profit Prisons

"Private immigration detention facilities are inconsistent with international human rights standards"

Andrea Germanos

On the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ's) "important and groundbreaking decision" to phase out the use of private prisons, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just signaled that it may follow in those footsteps—a move that would heed human rights advocates' call for the agency to end "prison profiteers in our inhumane immigration system."

In a statement released Monday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson says he asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to establish a subcommittee tasked with evaluating "whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] should move in the same direction" as the DOJ, with their findings to be submitted by Nov. 30.

Among those welcoming the news was Human Rights First's Jennifer Quigley, who said, "Private immigration detention facilities are inconsistent with international human rights standards and are largely unnecessary.”

"Secretary Johnson is right to look at this important issue and we look forward to the committee's recommendation, which we hope will mirror the Department of Justice's decision to abandon private prisons," she continued.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last week had asked DHS to end private, for-profit detention, citing its "impact on detainees, the high cost to taxpayers, and the Department of Justice's recent decision," also praised the development.

"This step is a tacit admission that the corporations who profit by locking up desperate adults and children undermine our decency as a nation," Grijalva said. Until DHS also cuts its ties with the profiteers, its "association with this industry will continue to besmirch their reputation as servants of the American people, and prolong the black eye that for-profit detention has given our nation's reputation around the world," he said.

If the agency does agree to phase out privately-run prisons, it would impact the vast majority of those ICE detains, who, as a recent report found, may face "egregious" violations of medical care standards.

As Alice Speri wrote at The Intercept following the Justice Department announcement:

While the Justice Department’s decision is set to impact 13 privately run federal prisons and some 22,660 prisoners, the potential impact of a similar decision by ICE would be considerably more significant for the agency. The ICE spokesperson said that 46 of the agency’s facilities are operated by private contractors. While the immigration detention population fluctuates, private contractors oversee a daily average of 24,567 detainees—out of the average 33,676 held in ICE detention each day. As of 2014, the immigration detention population had jumped 47 percent over the prior decade. Immigration advocates say that growth is both unjustified by public safety needs and sets the stage for neglect and abuse.

Calling on DHS to follow in the steps of the DOJ, the Center for Constitutional Rights previously said:  "Locking up immigrants, including families and children fleeing extreme violence in Central America, should not be a source of profit for huge corporations, particularly given private contractors' terrible record providing inadequate medical and mental health care to dying immigrants."

"These corporations continue to fight our clients at Detention Watch Network to keep the financial terms of their contracts with the government secret—they know that public awareness of how their profiteering works may undermine their enormous influence over detention policy, which has given them control over 62 percent of immigration detention beds. It's time to end the role of CCA, GEO, and other prison profiteers in our inhumane immigration system," their statement read.

reports that the new development "caused shares of prison operators" like the largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, "to plunge."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden Urged to Fire Covid Response Chief Over 'Damning' Failures

"Zients has failed to provide the materials necessary to improve the U.S. response, or the guidance necessary to keep the pandemic under control," argued one critic.

Jake Johnson ·

As Sinema Defends Filibuster, Progressives Say 'Vote Her the Hell Out'

"The filibuster is a meaningless Senate rule. It's a remnant of slavery used to block civil rights for generations."

Jake Johnson ·

Poor People's Campaign Readies 'Massive, Nonviolent' Effort to Save Democracy

"We are not in this for a moment, but for a movement," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. "Our deadline is victory."

Jake Johnson ·

Tsunami Triggered by Huge Volcanic Eruption Hits Tonga

The undersea volcano's eruption also sparked tsunami warnings for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the United States.

Common Dreams staff ·

Sanders Says Manchin and Sinema Are Imperiling US Democracy

"It is a sad day when two members of the Democratic Caucus are prepared to allow the Freedom to Vote Act to fail and undermine the future of American democracy."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo