It Comes to This - Indiana Town Wants Private Detention Camp for Immigrants as a Means of Boosting Its Economy


In Gary, Indiana, political leaders are courting GEO Group to have the private prison company build a detention camp for undocumented immigrants.

The center, which would be built next to the city's airport, is being touted as a job-creator and a source of revenue.

Gary mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson estimated that the facility would generate $1 million in annual property taxes. “I can use that,” she noted.

Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell agreed, saying, “I think it is a wonderful idea. It will bring revenue to the city and jobs. And I think it is an ideal location.”

GEO Group has long come under fire for practices within its facilities as well as its profiteering off of the criminal justice system. From 2008 to 2012, CEO George C. Zoley had a compensation of $22,315,704. Because the company largely contracts with the government, almost all of this money came from American taxpayers.

The Private Corrections Working Group notes that GEO has faced hundred of lawsuits over conditions within its facilities, with scores being settled before reaching trial. As Brendan Fischer notes, research has shown that “assaults on guards by inmates were 49 percent more frequent in private prisons than in government-run prisons. The same study revealed that assaults on fellow inmates were 65 percent more frequent in for-profit/private prisons.”

GEO has steadily expanded its operations due to its close political connections. It has close ties to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has in the past employed several staffers tied to GEO, including a chief of staff who co-founded the same lobbying firm employed by GEO.

Some local residents are concerned. Tom Dubois of Concerned Citizens of Hobart, who opposes such detention facilities, said, “It's a moral issue as well as an economic one.”

Gary's unemployment rate has been persistently high, and it has been described by some of its residents as a “ghost town.” In 2011, Gary had to close its main library due to budget cutbacks. Building an economy and tax base based on detaining migrants is probably not the ideal strategy, but in an America where so much of the Midwest has been deindustrialized and left in decay, it's the sort of perverse idea that makes sense to local leaders.

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