Government Incentivizing Prisons and Detention Centers

Remember last year, that long, long time ago that most of us have forgotten, when thousands of children attempting to immigrate into the US from Central America were put in detention centers? Remember?

Well guess what? They are all still there. And the facilities are crammed.

So, who is paying for this? We are.

You see, a privately held company holds most of the prison contracts with the Federal government and eleven states. GEO Group builds and manages prisons across the US. And they hold the keys to the ‘detention centers’ in Texas and Pennsylvania currently holding all these children and their moms.

With revenues well over $2billion, the CEO of the Group, George Zoley, was paid over $4million in compensation last year. He is considered the highest paid government contractor and they are continually awarded new contracts despite numerous lawsuits and citations for wretched conditions and death.

The charges filed include deplorable medical conditions, substandard care, nine deaths, under-staffing, and at a youth center housing 13-22 year olds there were brutal beatings, sexual attacks by prison guards, gang fights, rapes, denial of education and medical care, and overall negligence. There was one federal indictment in that case – the warden, William Grady Sims, resigned and served seven months in prison.

Despite numerous civil lawsuits and federal charges, they are still a major government contractor. Mandatory sentencing has produced a system of incentivized incarceration.  In addition, detainees at detention centers and prisoners are required to – work.  It’s called slave labor and it’s authorized by the government.

As incarceration has risen 500% over the past 30 years, the rise directly coincides with the founding of GEO, originally Wackenhut Corporation, in 1984. Incarceration has become a monetary incentive. But the states and the fed are in collusion with this in that their contract with these private prison companies include a clause that requires the state to maintain a 80-100% occupancy on the prison’s behalf! And GEO boasts a 95% occupancy rate. But it is worse. If the state doesn’t have enough prisoners to fill the private prisons, they still receive a guaranteed percentage of occupancy even for – empty cells. For example: if the prison is only filled to a 60% capacity, the prison will still receive the minimum guaranteed payment per person up to the 80%to 100% per the contractual agreement.

GEO is large and expanding. They have a number of subsidiaries including:

  1. GEO Care Inc – which, “provides correctional mental healthcare services and operating state psychiatric hospitals treating forensic and civil populations, including the current management of six adult residential treatment centers. GEO Care has established itself as the premier provider of mental health and residential treatment services.” But this subsidiary is also not without it’s history of problems: “unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.” In 2012, three patients died, 2 from overdosing on medications and one from a scalding bathtub.
  2. GEO Transportation, Inc
  3. GEO UK
  4. GEO Australia

Incentivizing occupancy means that crimes not deserving of prison will nonetheless mandate an order from a judge. This undermines basic law. In Colorado state prisons were shut down due to low occupancy as crime fell. But the private prisons remain full.  Arizona boasts an over capacity of prisoners relative to prisons.

They have such a win-win that they have created their own production and no one can bring them down. It is estimated that ICE spends over $2billion per year – on detention centers alone.

So what happened to all those moms and children in the private detention centers run by GEO? Mothers are protesting, hunger strikes are ramping up, solitary confinement is not uncommon, and children are sick. Las Hieleras in Texas is a temporary holding where allegations of freezing temperatures are utilized to break the spirit of the detainee.

While immigration is certainly a problem that has seen no remediation, ethics are in question as these people become simply a piece of merchandise on which private enterprise profits.

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