Detention Corporations' Influence: Financial Contributions and Contracts Within Politics

Gao, Elizabeth Lu. "Detention Corporations' Influence: Financial Contributions and Contracts Within Politics." University of Washington. Department of of Law, Societies, and Justice, 2023.

LSJ Honors student and thesis author: Elizabeth Gao

Second Reader: Rachel Erstad (Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies)

This thesis aims to understand the ways in which large corporations that are involved in the detention and alternatives to detention (ATDs) business seek to influence the political process through campaign donations in Washington state. We know that large corporations are taking advantage of technological alternatives to detention, but we do not know much about corporate involvement and influence in politicians’ voting on state level immigration policies that perpetuates further immigration oppression.

In this thesis, I first identified the major players in the detention and alternatives to detention (ATDs) industry, and the connections between them. Second, I examined their financial contributions to Washington state politicians compared to other state politicians. I found that while GEO Group, Inc. and CoreCivic, Inc. have donated to Washington state politicians, the total is less than what was donated to politicians in other states. This is an unexpected finding, as many of those states are similar to Washington state - either also having just one GEO Group, Inc or CoreCivic, Inc owned facility or none at all. Only CoreCivic, Inc modestly donated to Washington state party committees. Future research is required to further examine what encourages higher financial contribution to those states compared to Washington state, and whether the contributions correlate with actual political influence on bills related to immigration enforcement.

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