As you are no doubt aware we have an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center here in Tacoma. It currently houses 1,300 people. Most of these people are illegal immigrants. The vast majority of these individuals are not violent criminals. It is a facility to hold individuals until they can be processed and released or deported.
The Detention Center in Tacoma is run by a for-profit company called the GEO Group. The GEO Group is a global for-profit prison company. They are the second largest for-profit prison company in the United States and have more than 95 facilities.
A quick look into the GEO Group finds that when it comes to immigration, the GEO Group is at the forefront of funding anti-immigration legislation. The Associated Press found that the GEO Group is one of several for-profit prison companies that contributed tens of millions of dollars towards anti-immigration lobbyists and candidates.
It’s in their best interests that we lock up as many people as possible for as long as possible. That’s how they make their money. And so they are literally influencing new anti-immigration law in order to lock more people up in their facilities. That alone should be disturbing to anyone as it goes contrary to the basic concept of our rule of law.
However, that’s not all that’s wrong with the GEO Group. A woman in a Texas facility reported being raped by male inmates and shortly after that committed suicide. In March of 2007, her family won a settlement against the GEO Group.
The GEO Group-run Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi is a place where in 2010 the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a legal complaint alleging that the juveniles there (67% of them there for non-violent offenses) were “kicked and punched while handcuffed, and others have been stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement for weeks;”
One need only put the words ‘GEO Group’ and ‘Abuse’ into a Google Search to quickly find a litany of abuse complaints including horrific conditions, inedible food, sexual assault, rape, physical abuse, and death.
Recently, as many as 750 of the inmates in the ICE facility in Tacoma began a hunger strike citing poor conditions. I fear Tacoma may soon be added to the growing list of cities where for-profit prison abuses have resulted in unwanted headlines. It’s clear that this company is not a company that should be making money in Washington State.
Governor Inslee, I recognize the need for a facility such as the detention center here in Tacoma. However, it should not be run by a for-profit company with a lengthy history of corruption and abuse.
Recently you put a stay on executions in this state because you found that the law might not have been applied fairly. I urge you to seek a solution to this situation that gets for-profit prisons out of our state. These companies thrive on taxpayer dollars by locking up our people for as long as possible.
- Jack Cameron
UPDATE: Sign my petition to Governor Inslee to shut down for-profit prisons in this state.