Exposing the Business of Immigrant Detention – CCA

I recently discovered a Reuters report featuring CCA (Corrections Corp of America)–the biggest privatized immigrant detention facility in the United States–almost gloating about the fact that these coming elections won’t make a difference to their company since there will always be a population that would need “service.” I wonder why the major newspapers and newswires in the United States missed this story–the UK Reuters link has been taken down since then but it is here for the timebeing.

“If there is any meaningful immigration (policy) change, I think there is going to be a population that is still going to have to be serviced.”

Why is the CCA so self-assured of continued business?

In the late 1990s, CCA overbuilt many detention facilities following the “if you build it, they will come” rule. According to Anton Hie, an analyst in the Nashville office of Jefferies and Co. who covered industry leader Corrections Corporation of America and its closest competitor, the GEO Group, “There was a lot of promise of new inmates that never came … It kind of all came crashing in.” States stopped contracting after high-profile escapes, riots and other scandals and subsequently, stocks came crashing down.

In 2000, the CCA had reported a net loss of $253.5 million but that is history with a 470% boom in immigrant detention over the past 15 years. CCA finally banged a lucrative deal that year–the former INS came to their rescue to house 1000 detainees at the CCA-owned San Diego Mesa Facility, and hence, saved the private detention industry from collapse, giving rise what Roberto Lovato and other prominent scholars call the migrant-prison complex. With 32,000 immigrants behind bars, some indefinitely await hearings, some commit suicide, some are dehumanized and abused, and others sedated with psychotropic drugs upon deportation, the numbers are only growing for ICE, CCA and sadly, the numbers behind bars. Today, the ICE, U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons account for 40% of CCA’s revenue (13% from ICE at $1.5 billion)–which controls a little under half the private prison beds in America. Last year, the CCA reported a net profit of $133 million.

The number of jail beds funded annually in congressional appropriations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

FY 2001: 19,702

FY 2002: 21,109

FY 2003: 19,444

FY 2004: 19,444

FY 2005: 18,500

FY 2006: 20,800

FY 2007: 27,500

FY 2008: 32,000

(Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

For more details and background story, see the Huffington post here.

“We are doing business with 20 different states around the country. I would say it’s probably 50-50, where you’ve got half the states where the governor is a Democrat and the other half is Republican,” COO and President Damon Hininger told Reuters from Nashville, Tennessee.
“I think we have shown a good track record that we can work regardless of who is in the capital or who’s in the governor’s office within various states,” said Hininger, who began his career at Corrections Corp as a correctional officer.

With the little time I had, I did some more independent research and found out that CCA has exercised it’s ‘free speech’ rights this year by contributing $15,000 each to the Republican and Democrat Senate and Congressional races for these upcoming elections as well as to several other individual races funds for a total of more than $60,000. The CEOs and managing directors have also made noteworthy contributions. Yes, Mr. Hininger, a little glance at your contributions and we know exactly what sort of ‘business’ you are doing to maintain a good track record with the different states regardless of their political leanings. (Keep in mind that this is just the CCA and other privatized prisons companies like Geo also contribute massively to skew the ‘democratic’ process in their favor).

On a related note, the artists from the Just Seeds collective have contributed about 100 murals to the upcoming Critical Resistance CR10 conference that has workshops, round-tables and panels to discuss strategies around fighting the prison-industrial complex. If you are in the Bay Area California, do check it out at Laney College this upcoming week.


Being undocumented is not a crime but when criminalizing immigrants makes $$ for corporations …

Here are some more useful resources on this:



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