Immigrants Generate Big Profits for Prison Companies

The U.S. is locking up more undocumented immigrants than ever, and prison companies are reaping the benefits, says a new Associated Press review. The review shows that the businesses have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers and contirbuting to compaigns.

The cost to American taxpayers is set to be around $2 billion this year, and companies are expecting their biggeset cut of that yet in the next few years thanks to government plans for new facilities to house the number of immigrants detained annually -- around 400,000 people. 

The private prison system is largely controlled by just three companies, and growth is far from over, despite a drop in illegal immigration in recent years. The total average nightly cost to taxpayers to detain an illegal immigrant, including health care and guards' salaries is around $166. 

These companies, while also making campaign contributions, also spend most of their money each year on lobbying in Washington, peaking in 2005 when they spent $ million. In the 10 states where the companies' committees and employees contributed the most, the AP found that they also spent at least $8 million more lobbying local officials in the last five years alone. While it's impossible to know how much of this money was aimed at immigrant-related contracts, that money generally went to states along the border, such as Florida and Texas (which have high numbers of immigrants) as well as states with large numbers of immigrant detainees, such as Georgia and Lousiana. 

Tell us: Are you surprised by these findings?