“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

Proposed legislation would provide state license to immigrant family detention centers

Karnes County Detention Center
State lawmakers in Austin have proposed a bill that would allow the state of Texas to license two family detention centers near San Antonio as childcare facilities, reports the San Antonio Express

Since the two facilities hold both adults and children, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) wouldn't license the facilities when they opened in 2014 following a large influx of Central America families seeking asylum in the US. In 2015, a federal judge ruled that family detention centers, such as those in Karnes City and Dilley, were not allowed to hold families for extended periods of time because the centers were not licensed and the families could not leave.

Guard at San Antonio detention center admits to sexually assaulting inmate

A guard from a private prison in San Antonio pled guilty to sexually abusing a prisoner, reports the San Antonio Current.

Barbara Jean Goodwin was a guard at the Central Texas Detention Facility, a private prison for immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. The detention center is operated by for-profit company GEO Group. Testimony from her victim and other detainees stated she forcibly performed oral sex on a prisoner over 30 times over a six month period. Goodwin now faces up to 15 years in federal prison.

Private prisons already booming under President Trump

Private prisons are already booming under President Trump, reports The Week.

Last August, the Department of Justice announced it would would begin the process of phasing out the use of private prisons, due to serious concerns over safety and treatment of inmates in private prisons, as well as a declining prison population. This decision was celebrated by activists against private prisons, and saw stocks plummet for major for-profit companies such as CoreCivic (formerly CCA) and GEO Group.   

Fast forward a few months, and things have changed. President, Donald Trump, has put a major focus on “law and order,” especially when it comes to detaining undocumented immigrants. New Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the original DOJ memo and told the Bureau of Prisons to once again rely on private prisons. This led to an increase in private prison stock.

Thousands of ICE detainees claim they were forced into labor, a violation of anti-slavery laws

Thousands of immigrants detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities have joined a class-action lawsuit over being forced to work for $1 a day or less, reports the Washington Post.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2014 is against the GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company that operates many for-profit detention centers for immigrants.. The case originally started with nine plaintiffs, who claim that detainees are forced to work without pay — and if they don't they are threatened with solitary confinement. The case has now been upgraded to a class-action lawsuit, which could potentially involve thousands of immigrants who were forced to work in GEO facilities. This is the first time that a class-action lawsuit has been brought against a private prison company, and could have major ramifications depending on the outcome.

The GEO Group operates over 20 facilities in the state of Texas.  For-profit prison companies are focused on keeping costs down and using detainee labor is one way to do that. Detainees work in the kitchens, keep the facility clean, and help maintain the facility.  

Immigrants are held in federal detention while they wait to see an immigration judge.

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