In December (after the election, of course) GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation) unexpectedly opted not to renew a multi-year contract to house State of Vermont prisoners. Their North Lake Correctional Facility in Michigan was housing less than 300 Vermont inmates (the only occupants in the facility) but has a potential capacity of 1,748.
Private for-profit prison companies just got a belated Valentine’s Day love letter from new Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. The Valentine came in the form of a memo that reverses acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ directives aimed to slow and ultimately end the Bureau of Prisons’ use of privately run for-profit prisons. The Obama Justice Department had acted on data (see here and here )suggesting that private prisons are less well run than those managed by the Bureau of Prisons, and since overall prison population wasn’t growing, they were no longer be needed.
However, Attorney General Sessions shifted — well actually reversed — the policy in his memo Thursday by declaring that curtailing private prison use “impaired the Bureau’s [Bureau of Prisons’] ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Think about what that says about the future Session envisions.
The new Attorney General may not have been the only one anticipating that Trump’s aggressive immigration sweeps will be supplying new detainees to occupy private prison beds. And since they opted out of the next one-year extension of Vermont’s contract in Dec. 2016, GEO Group will have emptied one of its facilities by June. So, maybe look for the future announcement that GEO’s North Lake will re-open to house the overflow of ICE detainees from Trump’s sweeps awaiting deportation hearings.
GEO Group is the largest (CCA is second) contract provider of detention services for ICE, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Marshals Service. With recent acquisitions Geo Corrections & Detention and Geo Care will own or manage about 98,000 beds worldwide including about 7,000 community reentry beds.
And GEO’s political action committee spends lavishly on politicians. In 2016 alone they gave $300,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign and almost that much in Senate and Congressional races — overwhelmingly to Republican candidates — all that in addition to heavy lobby spending on state legislators and governors. [the following was added 2/26 : Phil Scott got his bit:a $2,000.00 donation from GEO in March 2016]. GEO Group (and earlier Wackenhut) has helped fund and is listed as a member of ALEC (the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council).
So, it’s probably no accident GEO Group knew which way the wind was going to blow regarding immigrant detention when Trump said he’d deport ‘em all. There are estimated to be up to 8 million people in the country illegally that could be considered priorities for deportation. Sessions’ memo just monetized them. And GEO stock is at an all time peak.