Private Prison Company Responds to Accusations from Sen Elizabeth Warren About Trump Ties
Private prison company GEO Group responded Wednesday to criticisms from Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other liberal lawmakers by announcing an analysis that it says shows some of its facilities are safer than comparable federal prisons.
“For over three decades, GEO has been a successful service provider to the federal government with a longstanding record of delivering high-quality service to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) under both Democratic and Republican Administrations,” GEO wrote in a letter reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Importantly, the services we provide for ICE today are no different than the service we provided for eight years under President Barack Obama’s Administration.”
The letters were hand-delivered to Warren’s and other senators’ offices Wednesday.
Warren and others — including fellow Democratic senators and presidential aspirants Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders — sent the letter to GEO dated Nov. 15 requesting copies of its contracts with ICE for detaining immigrants, reviews of conditions at its facilities and more.
No Republicans signed the letter, which was also sent to another private prison company, CoreCivic.
“The Obama Administration, citing high rates of safety and security violations at private prisons, announced in an August 2016 memorandum that DOJ would reduce the federal government’s reliance on private prisons,” the senators’ letter stated.
“But just one month after President Trump’s inauguration, DOJ rescinded the memorandum, and has since — largely through changes in immigration policy — contributed to significant increases in private prison profits.”
The senators’ letter set a deadline of Nov. 30, just over two weeks after the letter was sent, for the information.
GEO responded on Nov. 21 that it could not comply that fast but would “provide a response, in coordination with ICE, at a reasonable time thereafter.”
Much of GEO’s lengthy response letter addressed the rescinded memo from then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to the Bureau of Prisons based on a study by the Office of the Inspector General.
“It is important to note, that the OIG Report was an ‘apples to oranges’ study comparing security incidents at 14 low-level security (Bureau of Prisons) facilities housing 12 percent criminal aliens, to 14 low-security contract facilities housing 96 percent criminal aliens,” GEO said in Wednesday’s letter.
GEO also claimed in the response letter that the company conducted its own analysis and found that contract facilities are “in many respects actually safer” than Bureau of Prisons facilities and have proportionally fewer deaths in custody, inmate fights, suicides and other indicators.
The senators’ letter also accused GEO of engaging in “aggressive lobbying efforts to promote policies that boost its profits — regardless of the human toll that those policies inflict.”
“In 2017, GEO Group spent $1.7 million on lobbying to influence federal immigration policies and secure lucrative contracts,” the senators’ letter said.
The senators also highlighted that GEO and GEO subsidiaries gave hundreds of thousands to President Donald Trump-linked causes, including $250,000 to his inaugural committee.
The GEO group responded that its efforts in government relations did not extend to matters concerning criminal punishment or sentencing determinations.
“We have never engaged in advocacy or lobbied government officials regarding policies, regulations or laws related to the length of prison sentences, whether or not to punish certain behaviors, or the basis for an individual’s detention or incarceration,” GEO responded.
GEO said its “lobbying activities focus exclusively on promoting the benefits of public-private partnerships.”
The senators also asked for copies of GEO facilities’ contracts with ICE as well as other documents, such as reviews of conditions in facilities, but GEO deflected the requests to ICE.
GEO and other detention facility operators have come under fire in recent months.
A surprise government inspection of GEO’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, found inadequate medical care and inappropriate use of solitary confinement in May.
But GEO said it had fixed the issues by early September, nearly a month before the results of the inspection were released to the public.
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