Detention Time: What Are Detention Centers For?

Detention Centers
What are detention centers

Detention centers. They are the last place that most people want to end up. 

It is a place where you lose your rights, your freedom, and sometimes even your dignity. A detention center can damage a person, but they are consequences for people who violate the law. 

In the United States, there are over 500,000 immigrants alone in detention centers. 

Some reading this are probably asking, what are detention centers? Well, this is your guide. 

What Are Detention Centers?

Detention centers are jails or prisons where people are forcibly locked up under the authority of whatever government has jurisdiction.

People locked up in detention centers have violated some type of law or committed some type of crime that the local government has deemed illegal to get themselves there. Being there is the punishment for committing a said crime or violating said law. 

There are several different types of detention centers. Jail is usually for offenders serving a sentence for one year or less. A prison has offenders that are serving a sentence for longer than a year.

Sometimes, these centers will separate people depending on the type of crime that they committed. For instance, if you are in jail for possession of drugs or embezzlement, you will probably not be in the same room as a murderer or a rapist. 

Besides those two, there are separate facilities dedicated to immigration. As of 2019, there were 215 detention centers across the country dedicated to immigration. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into that category. 

Immigration Detention Centers 

What are immigration detention centers? These are facilities specifically dedicated to locking people up who violate immigration law. 

These can be things such as suspected visa violations, crossing the border illegally, people waiting to be deported, some people seeking political asylum, and more. 

So, say you are a Mexican citizen that crossed the border to the United States illegally. One day, you get pulled over because you are suspected of drunk driving. 

A US citizen that failed the breathalyzer test after that would just be arrested and charged with a DUI. However, in your case of being a Mexican citizen, it gets more complicated. 

After an officer requests a license and registration, if you are in the country illegally, you could get arrested for violating visa laws. Then, you may be placed in an immigration detention center and be subject to deportation. 

In the United States, one of the most famous immigration detention centers is located in Guantanamo Bay. This is known to be a place where the most serious offenders are locked up. 

Most likely, it would not be the normal person crossing the border illegally that goes to Guantanamo Bay. It may be people that are suspected of being terrorists or people that are illegal citizens and are suspected of being part of a drug cartel. 

Private Centers 

What are private immigration detention centers? These are basically owned and operated by a private company rather than the local government.

In the United States, private companies own and operate 81% of the immigration detention centers.  

These types of companies operate with the purpose of making a profit from running these centers. Sometimes, this has led to a quota for filling up the detention centers. Before 2017, some companies had a quota of about 34,000 immigrants per year. 

Overall, the detention budget is $3.2 billion, with over 500,000 immigrants locked up in 215 facilities. As for the number of deaths, in the last 20 years, that number is 214 immigrants. 


Sometimes, detention centers are in the middle of controversy for these reasons. Mainly because a lot of them are privately owned, and some have quotas to fill their facilities. 

This really came to a head under the Trump administration when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was heightening up enforcement of detaining any unauthorized immigrants. 

Comparing the last year of the Obama administration to the first year of the Trump administration, ICE encounters increased by over 20,000 for US citizens. 

During both administrations, about 85% of all removals had no criminal record or prior convictions. 

This led to much discussion about how strict the enforcement was, the quality of the immigration detention centers people were being locked up in, and who was actually placed there. 

The question is, are there alternative options? 

Alternative Options 

For those that do not believe detention is the only answer, there are other options to keep an eye on people that the government may not want to leave town. Of course, this will depend on the person’s offense and the deal and sentence they get. 

For those on probation or parole, something like a GPS monitoring device may be a good alternative rather than locking up another person in detention, especially one with no prior convictions. 

There is a communication device in the monitor that can allow a defendant or officer to communicate straight from there rather than worrying about trying to get one or the other on the phone. 

These devices can last for up to 55 hours without being charged and have a location accuracy of about six to seven feet. 

So, if a government official wants to keep an eye on the defendant and people want to steer away from detention quotas, this could be an attractive alternative to keep an eye on the person in question without having to place them behind bars and walls of a detention center. 

Learn More About Alternatives 

What are detention centers? Sometimes controversial, and arguably sometimes a waste of resources and unnecessary stripping of freedom. 

Do you want to find out what other options you may have as an enforcement officer or as a defendant? 

Contact us to explore your options. 

Free Shipping. Free Returns.

Less stress, more sweat.