In a way, private prisons seem a relatively new development, but the ugly foundation of private prisons is deeply ingrained in U.S. history.
The government “detains” or imprisons or incarcerates or warehouses human beings under some “legitimate” rationale while private individuals financially benefit from the business of keeping that group of people locked up.
Sometimes the stated rationale is explicitly punitive, as in the criminal justice system, and sometimes the rationale is framed as benevolent action (rehabilitation), as in the juvenile justice system.
In the immigration context, the government has offered a mixture of these and other to justify “detention,” but right now the U.S. Department of Homeland argues that women and children need to be detained because they pose a threat to national security.
Private prison companies benefit from a quota set by the U.S. Congress that requires ICE to “detain” 34,000 per day. See, for example, this article by Nick Miroff, “Controversial quota drives immigration detention boom,”
(Last accessed November 14, 2014), reporting in 2013 from the “brightly painted Karnes County Civil Detention Center.”
For perspectives on the private business of detaining immigrants specifically:
The following links will take you to organizations working to expose and resist the private prison industry.
You may also be interested in the following short articles:
And for more in-depth analysis of the private prison industry:
Sarah Stillman, “Get Out of Jail, Inc.,” The New Yorker, June 23, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/get-out-of-jail-inc>