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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Immigration Reform Could Mean Windfall For Private Prisons

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., that the private prison contractor runs for the government, is seen Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. Inside, immigrants are detained indefinitely, some for months and years, while the government decides what to do with them. (Mel Evans/AP)

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., that the private prison contractor runs for the government, is seen Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. Inside, immigrants are detained indefinitely, some for months and years, while the government decides what to do with them. (Mel Evans/AP)

Members of Congress are in their home districts until later this fall, but that doesn’t mean they’re able to escape the issues on Capitol Hill.

Immigration reform is one of those issues following them back home. Advocacy groups and their opponents around the country are staging protests and events to highlight the issue.

But one potential side effect of immigration reform is getting overlooked: private prisons stand to make a lot of money.

Patrick O Connor, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, tells Here & Now that the companies that run private prisons started benefiting as early as 2005, when changes were made in the way people were prosecuted, under a program called Operation Streamline.

The program shifted people into the federal system instead of going through the civil system, or simply being deported.

“A lot more people are in prison than had been before on immigration charges, and the companies are the direct beneficiaries of those policies,” O’Connor said.

Immigration reform, as it was passed by the Senate, would create another windfall for the two major private prison companies in the U.S., Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group.

While immigration reform would decriminalize the population inside the United States, border control would be strengthened.

Any legislation coming out of the House would likely call for even stronger border control than the Senate version.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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