Private prison companies give around 90 percent of their congressional political contributions to Republicans, though a small cadre of Democrats continue to take private prison campaign cash.
Private prison companies were on the ropes in August 2016 when the Obama administration announced it would end the Justice Department’s (DOJ) reliance on the troubled industry. Shares of CoreCivic and GEO Group plummeted. The decision was largely informed by a report from the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General that revealed private prisons’ failure to save money and maintain the same level of safety and security as the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would consider following the DOJ’s lead for immigrant detention centers, though officials ultimately decided against it.
Then President Trump was elected, and in February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Obama-era initiative to phase out the use of private prison companies. Some of these former prisons had already been recycled into immigrant detention centers, allowing CoreCivic and GEO Group to continuing to profit. These companies, with lengthy histories of human rights abuses, are key cogs in the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.
GEO Group is ICE’s largest contractor, with more than $400 million in federal contracts to run private prisons and detention centers, according to the Miami New Times. The company, which has been accused of denying food and water to inmates, faces a separate lawsuit alleging it made an illegal $225,000 donation to a pro-Trump political action committee in the 2016 election. GEO Group and CoreCivic, the nation’s second largest private prison company, eachdonated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund. CoreCivic has allegedly broken human trafficking laws and forced detained immigrants to work for sub-minimum