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Azadeh Shahshahani Headshot

The 'Sunk Costs' of a Profit-driven Prison System

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Over the past decade, there has been an alarming increase in the use of immigration detention in the United States. From 2001 to 2010, the number of immigrants held in immigration detention each year nearly doubled from 209,000 per year to over 363,000.

The increasing use of immigration detention is an unnecessary drain on government resources and taxpayer dollars. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintained a record-high daily detention capacity of 34,000 beds, costing taxpayers $2 billion. As of November 2011, the U.S. government spent approximately $166 per day to hold one immigrant in detention. This is 18 times greater than the $8.88 per day it costs for more efficient, highly effective, and humane alternatives to detention.

The for-profit prison industry is the main beneficiary of the ever-expanding, unregulated immigration system in the U.S. Since 2001, private corporations have gained increasing control over immigration detention facilities in the US and continue to bring in record profits.

To read the rest of the article, including findings of a recently released report on immigration detention in Georgia, click here.