Detainees Equal Dollars

Marc Rodrigues cuito61 at
Mon Aug 19 18:35:53 MDT 2002

The Rise in Immigrant Incarcerations drives a prison boom
by Alisa Solomon

It was a shaky spring for the correctional workers of Hastings, Nebraska
(pop. 24,064), as the stagnation in the nation's prison population and
the increasingly high costs of incarceration jostled the sleepy town,
some two hours' drive from Lincoln. On April 9, the 84 employees of the
Hastings Correctional Center were told that the 186-bed facility would
be closing at the end of June. State funds were scraping bottom, and
the $2.5 million annual price tag for the prison was too big a burden
to carry. "We really didn't know what we would do," says Jim Morgan,
who had been working at HCC for 15 years and lives to this day in the
house where he was born. "There aren't a lot of job opportunities out
here, and most of us have homes and kids and couldn't even think about
moving somewhere else." For two months, the workers scrambled, filling
out applications at nearby meatpacking and cardboard-container plants
and anticipating long hours in the unemployment office.

Then salvation came from, of all places, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service. Days after HCC closed as a state prison in June, it reopened
as an INS detention center.

"It's a win-win," says Morgan. The INS is desperate for more beds for
its ever expanding detainee population. And the state of Nebraska, collecting
$65 per detainee per day from the INS, rakes in more than $1 million
a year over and above the cost of running the place.

County jailers have long known that housing INS detainees pumps easy
income into the coffers. Nearly 900 facilities around the country provide
beds for the INS, and in interviews over the years, several county sheriffs
and wardens have described such detainees as a "cash crop."

Passaic County Jail in New Jersey learned the lucrative lesson after
9-11, as INS transfers boosted its detainee population from 40 to 386
by December 18. The INS paid $77 per day per detainee, compared to New
Jersey reimbursements of $62 for state prisoners; some $3 million in
INS payments poured into Passaic last year.


Marc Rodrigues
Voicemail/Fax: 866.206.9067 x4217

"Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation,
understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying
who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives
if you fail to act." -George Jackson

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