Recently, New Mexico’s Educational Retirement Board (ERB) made the decision to divest itself from private prisons. Supporters of such a move have painted such companies in a very negative light with little justification.
Patrick Brenner, a policy analyst with the Rio Grande Foundation, submitted the following letter to the Albuquerque Journal. It was published on Monday, November 16, 2020.
I read the guest column, “ERB right to help dismantle unjust prison system,” published in the Albuquerque Journal on Nov. 8 and feel compelled to offer a response. The author is certainly entitled to her opinions about the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board’s decision to divest from private prisons, but she appears to be unclear on some of her facts.
The family separation mentioned in the column is a serious issue, but GEO does not manage any shelters or facilities housing unaccompanied minors, nor does it run any border patrol holding facilities along the U.S. southwest border.
What GEO does do is provide safe and humane residential care, including at the modern immigration Processing Centers it manages for the federal government that feature amenities such as artificial turf soccer fields, flat screen TVs in living areas, and indoor and outdoor recreation. These amenities are not usually available in government-operated facilities.
Unfortunately, the divestment campaign is based on an incorrect narrative and a mischaracterization of the role of GEO and other private contractors in this field who ultimately must answer to federal and state governments who are both their customers and regulate the terms of their contracts.