On a call for investors on Thursday, the president and CEO of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country’s largest private prison contractor, said that he’s not concerned about the impact that immigration reform might have on the immigration detention business.
“[T]alking with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], who has been a partner for us for many many years, I think their general belief is there’s always going to be a demand for beds,” said Damon Hininger, in response to a question about Beltway immigration reform talks.
Recent news reports have suggested that the legalization of undocumented immigrants could strike a blow to the private prison business, which profits significantly ICE contracts. But as I outlined last week, immigration reform also threatens to usher in an expansion in the incarceration of non-citizens if a bill includes provisions that tie immigration enforcement more tightly to the criminal justice system.
On the investor call, Hininger hinted that although immigration reform might shrink the rates of detention for immigration offenses, CCA expects a steady flow of bodies moving from the criminal justice system to the immigration detention system.
“[ICE’s] profile of detainees in those beds may change over time to where they focus more on what they call criminal aliens versus non-criminal aliens, so that may change over time…based on both the demand and maybe any policies out of the administration,” he said.
CCA pulled in more than $200 million from ICE contracts in 2011. The company earned about the same amount from contracts with the federal Bureau of Prisons, mostly for facilities used to hold immigrants convicted of federal crimes. Hininger said CCA was waiting to hear a response from the BOP regarding a bid for a new 1600 bed prison that will hold non-citizens.
“It’s too early to tell exactly what the impact [of reform] is going to be,” Hininger said, “but again, ICE has always said that there’s going to be a demand for bed space here in the US because of all the things they’re doing both within the interior, on the border, from the people that are released from state prisons that are ultimately need to be deported.”
“There is always going to be strong demand regardless of what is being done at the national level as far as immigration reform,” he added.
* This story has been updated since publication.