By Dina Rasor
Thursday, 03 May 2012
Last weekI wrote about the private prison company The GEO Group and how allowing private businesses to operate prisons can affect our justice system, our laws and the fate of our prison population. This week, I will tackle the largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and its unprecedented proposal to buy prisons from money-strapped states, as well as how CCA has gamed the system with trips through the revolving door, self-dealing and influence peddling.
Just to set the stage as to how large the prison population is in the United States: our prison population is the highest in the world; one out of 100 US residents are in prison. This number has grown dramatically since 1990, due to tighter crime laws and longer sentences. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Between 1970 and 2005, the number of people incarcerated in the United States grew by 700 percent. Today, the United States incarcerates approximately 2.3 million people.”
The private prison population has also been exploding. From the ACLU:
Even compared to this breathtaking rate of overall growth in incarceration, the rate of expansion of for-profit imprisonment far outpaced the field, accounting for a disproportionate increase in the number of people locked up. In 1980, private adult prisons did not exist on American soil, but by 1990 private prison companies had established a firm foothold, boasting 67 for-profit facilities and an average daily population of roughly 7,000 prisoners. During the next twenty years (from 1990 to 2009) the number of people incarcerated in private prisons increased by more than 1600%, growing from approximately 7,000 to approximately 129,000 inmates.
The largest private prison company, CCA, realized that this was going to be a lucrative market and decided to take their marketing and private takeover strategy one step further. In January of this year, they sent a letter to 48 states, many of them strapped for cash, and offered to buy the state prisons and enter a 20-year-plus contract with the states to house their prisoners. This was done under the persistent ruse that private prisons can be run cheaper than state prisons, even though most of the studies prove otherwise.