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Immigration Detention Company Splurges on Lobbying Under Trump

by Erin Rosa

One of the country’s largest immigration jailers and private prison companies spent $420,000 lobbying the Justice Department and federal lawmakers during the first three months of 2017, more than half of what they spent last year for lobbying services. The company has also nearly doubled the number of lobbyists working on its behalf.

According to Congressional disclosure reports released last week, the Geo Group, a Florida-based company that operates 74 correctional centers in the United States, spent the $420,000 on six different lobbying outfits, one of which employs two former aides of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The company gave $60,000 to national law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP to lobby Congress on issues relating to the 2018 national budget and homeland security expenditures, according to the records. The same firm employs David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux, former Sessions aides who are now working for the Geo Group.

In contrast, during the first three months of last year, disclosure reports show the Geo Group spent $110,000 on lobbying, and for the entirety of 2016 the company spent $830,000. At the end of 2016, the company had seven lobbyists working for them. Now, that number is thirteen.

With the Trump administration planning to increase deportations and expand immigration detention, and with Sessions killing an Obama-era directive to end government use of private prisons, the political environment will be lucrative for corrections companies.

This month, the Geo Group was awarded a $110 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to build a 1,000-bed detention center near Houston. After Trump was elected, Geo’s stocks nearly doubled.

The company’s main competitor, CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, spent $390,000 during the first quarter of 2017, and spent a total of $1,620,000 in 2016, records show. The two businesses incarcerate approximately 15,000 people in immigration detention on any given day.

For years, community groups and nonprofits have criticized the Geo Group for what they consider a “well-documented track record of abuse, mismanagement and neglect.” Naturally, the company denies those allegations.

This month, a man died while in custody at the Geo-run Adelanto immigration detention center in California, the second death in less than three weeks. A total of five people have died there in the five years since it opened.

Geo is also a defendant in a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company forced immigrant detainees in Colorado to work for low wages or without pay, and that guards threatened detainees with solitary confinement if they didn’t.

It remains to be seen how many government contracts the Geo Group will be awarded under the Trump administration, but it’s clear the company is sparing no expense on influence.


This article was originally published on on April 23, 2017; reprinted with permission from the author.