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Incarceration rates are beginning to fall, but big, for-profit prison companies have a growing line of business: immigrant detention.

Expand chart
Data: USASpending.gov; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

By the numbers: As of November 2017, 71% of detained immigrants were being held in private detention facilities, according to government data obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center.

  • Since Trump became president, ICE has awarded more than $480 million in federal funds to GEO Group and more than $331 million to CoreCivic, according to USA Spending.

It's a similar situation to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when all levels of government began struggling to handle the surge in prison populations and turned to private prison companies to help, Brennan Center for Justice Program Director Inimai Chettiar told Axios.

  • The government is "rapidly increasing immigration detention, and outsourcing it to the private sector."

Between the lines: These privately run detention centers often hire fewer staff members, require less training of them or don't implement programming for detainees, Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, told Axios. Some have even been sued for imposing forced labor on immigrants.

  • "When you have kind of weak standards and you have a for-profit motive, you wind up with understaffing and you wind up with lack of services and activities," Capps said. "That's where you get to health problems, and you probably have mental health problems, too."
  • A spokesperson from CoreCivic, however, said this is not the case. They said detention centers are held to strict staffing standards by ICE and at least one of CoreCivic’s family facilities provides migrants amenities such as gyms, parks, a playroom and a library.

The other side: If private prisons did not hold immigrants, they would likely be sent to local jails, which often struggle to meet the federal government's detention standards, according to a GEO Group spokesperson. Private companies are also more able to adapt to seasonal trends of unauthorized immigration, adds a CoreCivic spokesperson.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Study: Social media giants failing to remove most antisemitic posts

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking virtually during a March House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees hearing on a laptop computer in Tiskilwa, Illinois. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five social media giants failed to remove 84% of antisemitic posts in May and June — and Facebook performed the worst despite announcing new rules to tackle the problem, a new report finds.

Driving the news: The Center for Countering Digital Hatred (CCDH) notes in its study that it reported 714 posts containing "anti-Jewish hatred" to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and TikTok — which were collectively viewed 7.3 million times. These "clearly violated" company policies, according to the CCDH.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard: "It gets better"

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics. Ina Fried/Axios

Laurel Hubbard, speaking to reporters after becoming the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics, on Tuesday expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete as an athlete and convince transgender people to work through adversity.

What she's saying: "All I have ever really wanted as an athlete is just to be regarded as an athlete," Hubbard, said in response to a question from Axios. "I suppose the thing I have been so grateful here in Tokyo is just being given those opportunities to just go through life as any other athlete."

Amazon may have violated law in Alabama warehouse vote, NLRB says

The Amazon BHM1 fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, should hold a new election to determine whether to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the National Labor Relations Board said in a preliminary finding Monday.

Details: The e-commerce giant may have illegally interfered in a mail-in election tallied in April on whether workers at the plant should unionize, per a statement from an NLRB hearing officer assigned to the case. Amazon said it would appeal any ruling stipulating that a second vote should take place.