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A GEO Transport bus arrives from the Northwest Detention Center to pick up detained people from the ICE office at the 511 NW Broadway federal building in Portland, Oregon.

Northwest Detention Center is a privately-run detention center located on the tide flats of the Port of Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington, USA. The detention center is operated by the GEO Group on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.[1] The NWDC's current capacity is 1575, making it one of the largest detention center in the United States.[2] CCA and GEO get about 50 percent of all their revenue from the federal government; only 11 percent of their revenue comes from the Bureau of Prisons.[3]


The detention center opened in 2004 by Correctional Services Corporation (CSC) under a contract with The US Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, CSC was purchased by the GEO Group, thus acquiring the Northwest Detention Center.

In June 2008, the Seattle University School of Law's International Human Rights Clinic published an investigation on the NWDC concluding that conditions they found, "violate both international human rights law and domestic Constitutional protections."[4]

A contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expanded the detention center's housing capacity in 2009, making it the largest detention center owned by GEO Group on the West Coast.[5]

In March 2014, inmates launched a hunger strike to protest conditions at NWDC. According to ICE, 750 detainees had refused meals.[6] House Representative Adam Smith (D-9) criticized the NWDC in an interview with The Stranger in May, calling for improvement of the "shocking" conditions.[7] Protesters are calling for better food, speedier trials, lower commissary prices, and increased wages for labor.

In April 2015, guards allegedly beat Alfredo Rodriguez, an undocumented Honduran immigrant in his 60s. Rodriguez had reportedly criticized a guard for mistreating an inmate who was mopping.[8] Rodriguez has since been deported, and Jennifer Lesmez, who represents six detainees who witnessed the incident, says some were threatened with retaliation if they complained.[9] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Andrew Muñoz disputed the account, adding that "ICE policies forbid retaliation" toward detainees.

In October 2015, the Geo Group renewed a ten-year contract with ICE.[10]

On August 18, 2016, the U.S. Justice Department announced that they would end privatization of federal prisons, however this would not affect immigrant detention centers, which were 62% privately operated in 2014 compared to 8% of federal prisoners.[11] Geo stocks declined sharply after the announcement.[12]

On September 20, 2017 WA State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against GEO Group, Inc., the private prison company that runs Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). The lawsuit alleges that GEO Group, Inc., the second-largest private prison provider in the country, has for years violated Washington State's minimum wage law, paying its workers $1 per day or in some instances, with snacks and extra food. "Let's be honest about what's going on," said Ferguson, speaking at a downtown Seattle news conference. "GEO has a captive population of vulnerable individuals who cannot easily advocate for themselves. This corporation is exploiting those workers for their own profits." [13]

On July 13, 2019 an armed individual allegedly attempted to attack the detention center with a rifle and threw incendiary devices. The individual was killed during a confrontation with law enforcement. Four Tacoma police officers were placed on paid administrative leave.[14]


  1. ^ "Northwest Detention Center." GEO Group. Retrieved on November 22, 2010.
  2. ^ "About the NW Detention Center | Northwest Immigrant Rights". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  3. ^ "Department of Justice Will Stop Using Private Prisons; Immigration Agents Won't". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  4. ^ "Voices from Detention: A Report on Human Rights Violations at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  5. ^ "Northwest Detention Center - The GEO Group Inc". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  6. ^ "Hundreds Of Immigrant Detainees Go On Hunger Strike". The Huffington Post. 2014-03-08. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  7. ^ "Rep. Adam Smith Slams "Shocking" Conditions at Immigrant Detention Center". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  8. ^ "Tacoma immigrant detention center criticized over alleged violent incident". 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  9. ^ "Tacoma immigrant detention center criticized over alleged violent incident". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  10. ^ "The GEO Group Signs Contract for the Continued Management of Northwest Detention Center | Business Wire". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  11. ^ Shen, Aviva (2016-08-18). "The Problem With The DOJ's Decision To Stop Using Private Prisons — ThinkProgress". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  12. ^ "The GEO Group Inc: NYSE:GEO quotes & news - Google Finance". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Police kill man who allegedly attempted to attack immigration prison with fire". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-07-13.

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