Privatized Detention Centers Not Welcome in Illinois By Cheryll Boswell

What do you do with a closed correctional center that was built as a reformatory for women and a City whose biggest employer was once a prison? You build a bigger detention center that will house thousands of immigrants. Elected officials in Dwight, Illinois believe putting human beings including children behind bars and making a profit from it will be good for their City. The State of Illinois’ only female maximum-security prison was once located in Dwight Illinois. It closed in 2013 due to budget cuts. Now, the City of Dwight, is looking to bring a new detention center to house immigrants.

There is big money made locking up human beings especially people of color. African Americans and Hispanics make up a disproportionate number of individuals being incarcerated. According to The Sentencing Project, Illinois is one of twelve states where more than half of the prison population is African American. The other eleven includes Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. In Illinois, Hispanic and Latino incarceration rates are 1.4 times the rates of Whites. The City of Dwight wants to expand economic development in their city with more people of color in prison.

While immigration continues to be a major priority for this current president, private jails and detention centers are expanding and becoming a financial boom for companies across this country. In 2018, the New York Times, stated more than 700 children were separated from their families and placed in government sponsored facilities. Public prisons are about an $80 billion dollar a year business. Public prisons include the system that arrest, prosecute, jail, probate, and parole people. Private prisons are about a $4 billion dollar a year business. They don’t arrest or convict people. They do house them at a very profitable rate. Private prisons work contractually with federal governments through Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Many of the contracts private prisons have with the federal government have occupancy rates. They are required to keep their facilities between 80%-to 100% full. If they don’t meet this occupancy rate clause, taxpayers must pay them for empty beds in their facility.

ICE is looking to build a detention center that will house 1000 immigrants. Officials in Dwight sought out a Virginia based company to help them secure funding to build a detention center in their City. Headquartered in Richmond VA, the Immigration Center of America (ICA) is a multimillion-dollar company that has detention centers in several states. ICA is one of four large private-for-profit prison companies in the US. Core Civic, MTC The Management Training Corp, and The GEO Group are the other three for profit prison companies. All four claim to have programs that will educate and rehabilitate individuals in their custody. ICA has until September of 2020 to secure a federal government contract to build a detention center in Dwight.

The State of Illinois does not need more jails or detention centers. We especially don’t need more privatized prisons that profit at the expense of human capital whose ethnicity is either African American or Latino. We do need a judicial system that is free from racial bias.