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Immigration Law Blog

Blog on immigration law information, issues and news.

Some Info About the Tacoma Northwest Immigration Detention Center


The Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) is the region’s largest immigration detention facility and is privately owned and operated by Florida-based for-profit GEO Group. Currently the population of NWDC is 1,444 detainees. There are 1,575 beds in the facility and the average daily population is 1,362. There is a radically disproportionate male:female ratio. There are 1276 male and 168 female detainees, and their average length of stay is 122 days (4 months). NWDC classifies its detainees as low, medium-low, medium-high or high risk and based on their risk level they are put in housing pods of 50-64 people. 

On August 4th, 2017, the detention center went into lockdown due to detainees vocally protesting the physical treatment of a fellow detainee who had been removed by use of force for drawing on the back of a sleeping bunkmate. Detainees protesting the conditions at the facility is nothing new at the Northwest Detention Center. In April of this past year, over 750 out of the 1,444 detainees present participated in a hunger strike to protest the quality of food, facility hygiene, access to medical care, lack of recreation, exorbitant commissary prices and an increase in the $1 a day pay for menial jobs they perform around the detention center. 

In 2009, 92 guards were hired without background checks to work at NWDC and were later fired. Before the 1980’s there were only about 30 people in immigration detention each day,  but the rise of two major prison corporations (GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America) allowed them to lobby for laws that expanded detention and other forms of incarceration. Throughout the 1990’s various federal and state laws were passed that resulted in a new prison built every 15 days. GEO Group receives more taxpayer dollars for immigration detention than any other ICE contractor. 

The United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, which detains approximately 380,000 to 442,000 persons per year. Those detained includes legal permanent residents, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking can be detained for weeks, months and sometimes years. Of all those who are detained, over 31% of detainees have no criminal records. ICE estimates that the government spends $12,500 to deport each individual, however, when the costs of transportation, legal processing, detention and apprehension are combined, the government spends more than $23,000 to deport each person. In 2015, it was reported that detention cost taxpayers $2 billion.

Mercedes RiggsComment