Private Prisons and the Shift in Marketplace From the War on Drugs to the War on Terror

Private Prisons and the Shift in Marketplace From the War on Drugs to the War on Terror

Karina Moreno (Long Island University – Brooklyn, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4177-6.ch008
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This paper outlines the emergence of a new marketplace in the United States, immigration detention, especially after September 11th. This phenomenon is not limited to the United States, but is also observable in other countries as the result of the globalized economy. This paper first explains how the private prison industry adapted from shaping harsh drug law sentencing during the War on Drugs to now sponsoring legislative bills that target immigrants, the new “cash crop” for the private prison industry. Because of the securitization of immigration governance, politics of fear are easily used to justify and build public support for a tough stance on immigration. The end result is that immigrant detention is a highly lucrative and record-breaking profitable enterprise for private prison corporations, with little accountability in its treatment of immigrants and with more and more power in sponsoring and shaping legislation beneficial to their bottom line. Implications now that Trump, who ran a very xenophobic presidential campaign especially hostile to Mexicans and Muslims, are discussed.
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Shift In The Marketplace: The Growth Of (Private) Immigrant Detention

According to a report issued by the National Immigration Forum, the number of immigrants imprisoned each year has increased approximately twofold since 9/11, rising from 204,459 in 2001 to 429,247 in 2011 (Moreno, 2016). After 9/11, ICE was detaining 34,000 immigrants per day in the name of national security and no longer using the previous catch and release protocol. About 73% of immigrants are funneled through immigrant detention centers as they await their immigration hearings, but with the private prison industry’s powerful lobby, more and more punitive measures are ensuring immigrants continue to be opportunities for the prison industry. There is ample discretion in the amount of time an immigrant can be held in detention, there are numerous ways to curtail due process, and, with immigration court experiencing overload and severe backlogs, a longer stay in detention is easily achieved, ultimately rendering more profits to the private corporations that run these centers. Even more advantageous to the private prison industry is the fact that immigrants lack citizenship and the protections this guarantees, generally have lower levels of social and political capital, making their abuse in prison easier to justify and with even less demand for accountability than prisoners who are U.S. citizens (Moreno & Price, 2017).

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