Congressman Smith Statement on GEO Group Contract

Congressman Adam Smith made the following statement regarding the GEO Group’s Contract for the Continued Management of Northwest Detention Center.

October 6, 2015

“Last week, despite multiple hunger strikes, public protests over conditions, and lack of transparency in contract negotiations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed a new contract with the GEO Group to operate the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) for the next nine years and six months.”

“This contract is a symbol of systemic problems in our immigration detention system that we must fix. We need to get private, for profit companies out of the business of running immigration detention facilities and get those with pending immigration cases who pose no risk to society out on community-based Alternatives to Detention (ATDs). We also must ensure that there are clearly established, transparent and humane standards within immigration detention facilities.”

“One of the keys to achieving these goals is repealing the detention bed mandate. Due in large part to this misguided policy which directs ICE to have at least 34,000 detention beds for immigrants at any given time, private, for-profit prison companies run detention facilities. Under this policy, ICE is incentivized to detain largely nonviolent people whose immigration cases should be monitored through community-based ATDs. Last week, I offered an amendment to remove the detention bed quota from the short-term Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016. The amendment was rejected by the House Rules Committee, but I will continue to work with my colleagues to end the detention bed mandate.”

“We also need to make sure that local contracts, like the one just signed by ICE and GEO Group for the NWDC, have no minimum bed guarantees within them. Minimum bed guarantees are essentially detention bed mandates in individual contracts. I am a cosponsor of federal legislation that prohibits ICE from negotiating contracts that contain a minimum bed quota.”

“For those we must detain, we should have clearly established baseline standards for immigration detention facilities. My bill, the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, outlines such standards as well as stresses the need for increased use of ATDs and elimination of the detention bed mandate.”

“In March, I wrote a letter to ICE Director Saldaña to relay the need for these changes with respect to the then-pending NWDC contract negotiation.  I am very concerned that this contract will continue the status quo by allowing NWDC to be managed by the same private prison company that has run it for years. Until Congress takes action to address these issues, we are left with a flawed detention policy that benefits private corporations at high cost to taxpayers, detainees and families of those affected.”