Before and after: How shadow prisons transformed rural America

Over the last 10 years, a second-class prison system for immigrants has sprung up across some of the most remote landscapes in the United States.

Every night, 23,000 people—most of them held for minor immigration infractions—are locked up in these facilities. That’s in addition to the 34,000 immigrants believed to be housed in U.S. immigration detention facilities.

Willacy County Correctional Center – Raymondville, Texas

A decade ago, these infractions would have resulted in little more than a bus ride back home. Now, these people end up in places like this.

Adams County Correctional Center – Natchez, Mississippi

Established without a single vote in Congress, these Criminal Alien Requirement prisons, as they are called, have funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into private companies, a Fusion investigation has found.

D. Ray James Correctional Facility – Folkston, Georgia

Roughly two-thirds of immigrants who serve time in the federal prison system are locked up for “illegal reentry” — an offense that was once rarely prosecuted. In 2005, that changed. The federal government decided to ramp up prosecutions under an internal program called Operation Streamline, and the number of cases has risen over 183 percent since its implementation, with an average sentence of 18 months behind bars..

Cibola County Correctional Center – Milan, New Mexico

Very little is known about these facilities because company records are often exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under a provision intended to protect trade secrets.

Moshannon Valley Correctional Institute – Clearfield County, Pennsylvania

We went to Texas to take pictures of one of these facilities from a public road. Guards called the sheriff, who told us to leave immediately and “never come back.”

Reeves County Detention Center – Pecos, Texas

Read the Fusion investigation on the “Shadow Prisons” by visiting