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Deportation Profiteers Stand to Benefit from Proposed Private Prison in Michigan

March 18, 2012

This article is based in part by information from Michigan Immigration Reform.

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would allow private firms to run prisons in Michigan, but one of the companies that stands to profit from the legislation is connected to repeated human rights abuse cases and complaints, and has been accused of purposefully pushing immigration reforms that increase detentions, thereby increasing their profits.

The Michigan legislation relates most directly to a facility in Baldwin, Michigan.  According to MIRS news, one of the corporations most likely to win the contract is GEO Group, who had operated Michigan’s only private prison until 2005. The firm is has been the subject of multiple lawsuits for the deaths of prisoners and denial medical treatment. In addition, GEO Group helps fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who, along with the Corrections Corporation of America, drafted Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070.

A 2010 NPR report exposed a shareholder conference call during which Geo Group’s CEO admitted that SB 1070 would result in greater profits for the company, and joked about their involvement in its passage.  GEO Group, along with other private prison corporations, made campaign contributions to 30 of SB 1070’s 36 co-sponsors.  Additionally, GEO Groups parent company, Wackenhut, also profits from our anti-immigrant laws— they hold a contract for the detention and deportation of migrants captured along the US-Mexico border.  Human rights watchdog No More Deaths reports that immigrants detained by Wackenhut are regularly denied sufficient food or water.

Private prison companies like Geo Group are writing our criminal and immigration laws so they can line their own pockets.  Michigan citizens want no part of the for-profit prison industry, especially when the profiteers have such a long history of human rights abuses. ” said Ryan Bates, Director of Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform. “Our legislature should be looking out for Michigan’s bottom-line, not a private prison company’s.”

To pad their profits, private prison companies often hire too few staff to safely run the prison, and several studies have shown that they result in more abuse, riots, and break-outs.

Michigan’s public corrections officers are trained to keep our citizens safe and ensure that prisoners are treated appropriately—we’re not in this to make a profit.  Private companies are putting us all at risk by under-staffing prisons, poorly training their guards, and lobbying for laws that incarcerate people unnecessarily.  We need a corrections system that will look out for the public interest, not a private corporation’s profits.”

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