The largest private prison company in the United States, GEO Group, held its annual leadership conference last week at Trump National Doral, a golf resort owned by President Donald Trump. The location choice reveals the industry’s close ties to Trump and the Republican Party, and GEO Group’s business has boomed since Trump took office. During Trump’s campaign, the GEO Group donated $225,000 to a Trump Super PAC. Once Trump won the election, the GEO Group and another private prison corporation, CoreCivic, donated $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
Under the Trump administration, GEO Group has spent just under $1.3 million lobbying the government, and it spent more on the 2016 election than it had in the past seven years combined. Lobbying expenditures from the private prison industry overall are on pace to reach $3 million this year.
The private prison industry has thrived under Trump. Shortly after the election, stocks soared for the two largest private prison corporations, GEO Group and CoreCivic. Trump’s Department of Justice reversed a plan to reduce the use of private prisons in February 2017, paving the way for new government contracts for the industry. In April 2017, the GEO Group received a $110 million government contract to build an immigrant detention center in Texas. The same month, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gave CoreCivic a contract extension on its 1,000 bed immigrant processing center in Houston, Texas. GEO Group has received $774 million in government contracts in 2017 so far, and the company’s stocks have continually increased in response. This week, Bank of America increased its ownership of the company’s stock by over 2500 percent due to favorable forecasts. CoreCivic has ongoing contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice worth several billion dollars. The stock price for both companies has increased over 100 percent since Trump was elected.
In August 2017, officials from GEO Group and CoreCivic said they anticipate earnings to increase in tandem with immigrant detention time. In February 2017, a leaked memo from the Trump administration cited plans to double the capacity of beds at immigration detention centers from 31,000-34,000 individuals held daily to 80,000. This immigration policy coupled with Attorney General Sessions’ intent to revamp the war on drugs, which caused the United States to have the highest incarceration rate in the world, means that the private prison industry can expect a surge in government contracts and profits throughout Trump’s presidency.
Under the Trump Administration, this industry is thriving off policies perpetuating mass incarceration and deportation.
Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, LiveScience, Buffalo News, the Plain Dealer, The Hill, Gainesville Sun, Tallahassee Democrat, Knoxville News Sentinel, and the Troy Record. He lives in Gainesville, FL. Follow him on twitter: @msainat1