Geo Group revenues
The Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corporation set up in 1987) runs prison and detention centres as well as community based services for offenders and immigrants (Geo Care) in the United States and internationally. 86% of its revenues come from government contracts. Continued government business is essential for the company’s future. The Geo Group has been subject to complaints about poor and inadequate staffing, poor working conditions, high turnover of staff and falsification of business records. 1⁸
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) revenues
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was set up in 1983 and now owns 66 prisons and manages an additional 10 detention centres. It registered as a Real Estate Investment Trust in 2013 for tax purposes because it owns and manages prisons and other detention facilities. TransCor is a subsidiary of CCA which provides transport services to government facilities. Over 97% of its revenues come from federal, state and local contracts. It is indebted in 2015 to $1,464 million, which is slightly less than annual revenue. 1⁹ The CCA has been criticised for reducing workers’ pay, limiting access of detainees to health care and ignoring safety and sanitation standards. 2⁰ 21
Both these companies are very dependent on government contracts. Following the introduction of quota for immigration detention beds of not less than 33,400, the private sector has benefited from these arrangements. 22 Prison private companies lobby on immigration and detention issues that affect their business models. Between 2008 and 2014, CCA spent $10,560,000 on lobbying with $9,760,000 spent on
the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Sub-committee. 23 Both companies are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a strategic partnership of 200 corporations and 2,000 state legislators, which writes and promotes prison industry-friendly legislation. 2⁴ In 2013, both companies were part of a lobbying campaign which defeated an initiative which would have given 11 million undocumented people legal status. 2⁵ This illustrates how lobbying by companies shapes the legislation which directly affects the rights of refugees and migrants.
Geo Group and CCA have expanded their services for immigration detention to include the ‘Family residential centres’ for women and children. 2⁶ A survey by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Migration Studies (2015) found that in immigrant detention centres there was a high incidence of sexual abuse of women detainees, women were forced to deliver babies when restrained, hunger strikes, treatment of medical conditions with inappropriate medicines and problems with gaining access to legal advice and other groups. 27 The conditions in one family detention centre in Artesia, New Mexico was described as a “due process failure and humanitarian disaster’. 2⁸
The experience of privatisation of immigration services including detention facilities, in the United States, has shown that two private companies dominate the provision of services. The existence of legislation that sets a minimum number of detention beds has contributed to the expansion of private sector provision.
The dependence of companies on government contracts results in extensive lobbying of government departments and other policy making arenas. There are consistent complaints about abuse and the delivery of inadequate services.