Contracting Out Private Prisons

The US immigration and customs enforcement is mandated with the duty of handling the detention of inmates who are awaiting deportation, illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and other detainees who have committed immigration-related offenses. Since the year 2005, the number of detainees has rapidly increased by about 36%. The daily number of detainees has risen from 19,718 detainees to 30,881 detainees in 2007.

The year 2008 also recorded an increased number of detainees with immigration-related offenses. The increased number of detainees is owed to the changes in legislative changes that took effect in 1996. There were also changes in border security following the 2001 terrorist attack.

The year 2003 saw the effectiveness of tracking down the individuals who failed to appear for the immigration hearing or failed to honor the deportation orders. The Bush administration also contributed to the increased detainee population following the ban of arrest and release custom of illegal immigrants (Berestein, 2008, pg. A.1).

The above issues since 2004 have contributed to the high population of detainees who have been arrested on issues related to immigration. Public prisons in the US cannot contain the whole population of the detainees, and this has necessitated the need to look for more accommodation space for the inmates.

The ICE has been involved in contracting the private prisons to house the inmates until their cases are determined. The ICE has only eight detention centers of its own, and currently, it has no plans to build new centers. It prefers contracting the private sector to offer the services owing to the fact that they will get quick and ready access to more beds for the inmates (Berestein, 2008, pg. A.1).

The issue of contracting the private prisons for accommodating the inmates has been challenged by various lawsuits over the quality of service that these companies offer to the inmates.

This has raised a lot of controversy in the US, and the ICE should take into account various considerations before contracting the services from the private sector. The business for such services has been on the increase, and it is feared that some of them are out to make profits and not to mind the welfare of the inmates.

The officials of the ICE have, for long, considered the fact that hiring the private prisons has contributed to saving a lot of finances since accommodating an inmate in the private prisons is cheaper than accommodating them in their own centers. Facts have indicated that the cost of detaining individuals in the private prisons cost the ICE only $ 31per day while it would cost them $87.99 per day in its own facility.

Cost consideration is very important to every organization, but the immigration should not contract these services at a higher cost of the lives and welfare of the inmates. Besides the financial cost of detaining the inmates, the ICE should take into consideration the welfare and the adherence to human rights for the inmates (Berestein, 2008, pg. A.1).

The thriving business in the US of private prisons is important to the economy since it makes a contribution to economic development, especially by offering job opportunities to jobless individuals within society. The ICE should, however, be considering the comfort of the inmates in such cells and the adherence to the required standards of the cells for the inmates.

This has resulted from the lawsuits that have accused the private prisons of overcrowding the prisons. Evidence for flaws in the private prisons was documented in 2006 after a federal investigation was carried out in five of the facilities used by the immigration and customs enforcement. CCA is one of the largest private prisons contracted by the ICE. The facility at Otay Mesa is a 700 detainee facility.

The facility lost 200 beds in 2006 following the expiry of a county contract. Despite all these facts, the facility housed up to 1000 detainees by early last year (Berestein, 2008, pg. A.1). No evidence proved the reduction of the population since the facility resulted in consolidating the inmates.

As a matter of fact, they housed three inmates in a two-man designed cell where they added a sleeping cot for the third inmate. The ICE should also ensure that the facilities have complied with the required standards for adult detention facilities.

This requires such facilities to provide housing with 25 square feet free space per inmate for a cell occupied by more than one inmate. The lawsuits filed against the companies also indicated that the immigration detainees should be held in better conditions than those who had committed the crime or constitutional violations.

Besides the issues of overcrowding, the ICE should consider the medical facilities and the quality of medical service that is available in private prisons. This follows the filed suits accusing the facilities of delaying medical attention for the detainees and also very slow response even during emergency cases.

The inmates are forced to wait for medical attention for months, and the extreme of the matter is the reported deaths, which stands at 71 since 2004 (Berestein, 2008, pg. A.1). This normally has resulted from the mistreatments that the inmates go through in the private prisons. The ICE should always consider the kind of medical service offered and how first the management responds to the inmates’ ailments.

In conclusion, the ICE should also take the responsibility of finding out the motives of the companies offering the prison services. It is felt that some of these companies are out to maximize their profits at the expense of the lives and the welfare of the inmates. The immigration should, therefore, consider undertaking various investigations to provide a government insight into how the inmates are handled in the private cells.

This includes checking whether such companies are able to adjust to the changes that may face them and what actions are actually taken to face such challenges. The benefits of the facility in the US are outweighed by the shortcomings of their services, and the ICE should, therefore, take into account these measures to ensure that the human rights welfare of the detainees is not jeopardized.

The officials should ensure that the service actually reduces cost, ensure that the facility has quality service, and has very low levels of violence and occurrence of deaths and sound management before awarding contracts to such institutions.


Leslie Berestein. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, California: May 4, 2008. pg. A.1

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *