Prisoners Can’t Support Their Families, But They Can Make Investors Rich

Since 1984, when CoreCivic got the first contract to operate a for-profit prison, there has been a massive increase in private corporations finding ways to enrich themselves off mass incarceration. While it is unclear whether private interests or tough-on-crime public policy first fueled this epidemic, the result is that the U.S. has five times as many inmates as any other country. Unfortunately, this crisis touches those entangled in our country’s gridlocked immigration system, and so long as money in politics remains the name of the game, citizens and asylum seekers alike will continue to suffer.

You may wonder why corporations’ political contributions are allowed to affect public policy as if a company has the same political rights as a citizen. There’s a simple answer- Citizens United.

Since the 2010 ruling, under the guise of political speech, companies can donate to political campaigns and fund lobbying groups just as any individual American can. In a perfect world, where historical lack of access to a quality education, voting rights, property ownership, and fair lending practices do not play a role, this would not be devastating to our democracy. However, we know all these factors contribute to income and wealth inequality, making financial political contributions an effective show of power often unrepresentative of popular support for a politician or policy. Money can block out the voice of the masses for politicians willing to ignore their constituents in order to fund their campaigns and their own pockets. Fortunately for CoreCivic, and its competitor GEO Group, this administration has been more than eager.

GEO Group specifically has contributed large sums to the Republican party since 2016, giving $350,000 towards Trump’s inauguration and over $250,000 towards individual Republican candidates in the last two years. This makes the recent switch to a “zero tolerance” immigration policy and family separation appear less random and more like a coordinated effort to appease donors. As both CoreCivic and Geo Group have earned $4 billion in revenue during the last fiscal year alone, we can expect to see even more donations in the future, as well as domestic policies that increase their revenues and decreases their tax liability.

It is depressing that Justice Brandeis’s famous words: “more speech, not less, is the governing rule” are being taken out of context. Written in the case of a person being tried for being a communist, it is now being used to defend the rights of companies to spend unlimited money to influence people in office. This comes at a loss to everyone negatively affected by money in politics, including citizens and immigrants alike.


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