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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

Reddit traders look to pummel Wall Street's old guard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reddit traders are taking on Wall Street pros at their own game with this basic mantra: Stocks will always go up.

Why it matters: Their trades — egged on in Reddit threads — have played a role in historic market activity in recent days.

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Pay TV's bleak post-pandemic outlook

Data: eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the Pay-TV industry, and with the near-term future of live sports in question, there are no signs of it getting better in 2021.

Why it matters: The fraught Pay-TV landscape is forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.