Senator Webb unsure on Detention Bed quota mandate

Hector Salamanca Arroyo on June 22, 2015
Senator Jim Webb visited Des Moines, IA and was asked a question about companies running for-profit prisons impacting immigration policy and what he would do to limit their influence.

Senator Jim Webb was attending an event aimed at young professionals in Des Moines, mingling with the crowd and talking with just about anyone.

I arrived close to the end of the informal mingling period, and was able to be in the front of the crowd with GUI volunteers Lynne and Bill Howard from the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, and my colleagues Kevin and Arnie a few feet away from Senator Webb.

After Senator Jim Webb finished his speech, I rapidly raised my hand, and was chosen by him to ask my question.

Thanking him for visiting the state of Iowa, I was able to ask the following question:

Companies that run for-profit prisons lobby actively for policies that benefit them. The immigrant detention bed quota requires the government to pay for profit prisons for the 34,000 beds that must be filled every night. How would you limit the ability of firms like the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO group to set out immigration policy?

Senator Webb went on to discuss the relationship between the United States and for-profit prisons, sharing a story about how on a trip to Japan, he became interested in their incarceration rate, and began doing research in the United States on mass incarceration.

He stated “We have 5% of the world‘s population and 25% of the world’s prison population.  Either we’re the world’s most evil society or else we’re doing something wrong.” He continued and went on to state for-profit prisons changed the mentality of Congress.

Senator Webb then turned to the immigrant detention bed quota, he admitted he was unfamiliar with the subject, stating “I’m not sure what that really is. I would like to look at that.”

He continued “If they are saying, as a policy, that there be 34,000 beds set aside, in a for-profit institution, to process people for immigration, then I can understand that as a policy…I can’t imagine they would actually be saying there’s a mandate that there be 34,000 people in those beds.” 

“I’m going to have to look into that.” 

After the event, Senator Webb was asked to do a TV interview, and I was encouraged by Arnie to wait for him to finish and ask if there was a way to get him information on the detention bed quota mandate.

Seeing Senator Webb finish his interview, I walked up to him, thanked him for answering my question, and asked him how I could get him information on the detention bed quota mandate.

Senator Webb directed me to his aide, and I exchanged contact information with him and sent him the Grassroots Leadership report titled How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota. I hope next time Senator Webb is in town, I can follow up with him. 

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