How For-profit Companies Are Driving Immigrant Detention Policies

Sharita Gruberg
Date of Publication: 
December, 2015
Source Organization: 
Center for American Progress

Since 2005, revenues for the two biggest for-profit prison companies (Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, Inc.) have doubled.

According to the report How For-Profit Companies Are Driving Immigration Detention Policies, this increase largely results from the privatization of the immigration detention system beginning in the year 2000. Today, 62 percent of all immigration detention beds are operated by for-profit prison corporations. The report suggests that these companies have an economic incentive to perpetuate detention policies,  even though the majority of detainees pose a low security risk and detention programs have not proven to be cost effective. Private companies lobby heavily for measures such as minimum bed mandates that incentivize greater detention. The data shows that asylum seekers are less likely to be granted asylum when detained especially when held at for-profit detention facilities; the average asylum grant rate is 49 percent nationally, 13.5 percent for asylum seekers detained in government-owned centers, and 8.1 percent at for-profit facilities. The report also notes cases in which for-profit detention centers failed to meet adequate health and security standards for detainees especially LGBT immigrants. The author proposes alternatives to the current system such as congressional measures to eliminate bed quotas, increased monitoring of detention centers, and preventing the federal government from contracting with private companies for detention programs.

Download it here or view it online.



Gruberg, S. (2015). How For-profit Companies Are Driving Immigrant Detention Policies. Center for American Progress. Washington: DC. Available at: