Just before the end of his term, President Barack Obama's administration announced an end to the Justice Department's reliance on private prisons, following on the heels of an inspector general report that found numerous systemic problems within the arrangement.
At the same time, Hillary Clinton was leading in the presidential election polls, and it seemed four more years of Obama-like policies were on the horizon.
As Salon notes, private prison shares took a serious tumble. But it was not to last because Clinton was not to win, and those shares soared as quickly as they had fallen.
On Nov. 7, 2016, when the closing bell of the American Stock Exchange rang and before any sense of who the 45th president of the United States would be, CoreCivic traded at 14.36 and GEO Group stood at 15.93. Following Trump's electoral victory, private prison company stocks skyrocketed. Today, CoreCivic is trading at 23.19 (a 61 percent increase) and GEO Group is trading at 23.03 (a 45 percent increase). And for good reason. The Trump administration is a godsend for the private prison industry.
How has the industry fared post election?
"65 percent of detainees held by the Department of Homeland Security are housed in privately run facilities." Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions's reversal of the Obama administration memo beginning cutbacks on such contracts, that number will likely go up.
"In April, the administration -- sticking to the message from Attorney General Sessions’ one-paragraph memo to the BOP reversing the Obama administration’s intent to reduce reliance on private prisons -- posted a notice requesting proposals from private prison companies to house prisoners in Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities. CAR prisons are privately managed prisons."
"ICE awarded GEO Group with a $110 million contract to build a new immigration detention center in Conroe, Texas."
"CoreCivic filed plans with government officials in Elkhart County, Indiana, to construct an approximately $100 million detention facility."
GEO Group renewed a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons reportedly worth up to $664 million over ten years.
Given the current administration’s penchant for privatizing government services -- including increasing its reliance on private prisons -- we owe the thousands of people who cycle into and out of private prisons and immigration detention centers a duty to constantly monitor their conditions and ensure that private entities that perform public functions should be subject to the same transparency, accountability and oversight as public entities.