From a report in Saturday's Business Insider:
By definition, for-profit, private-prison firms rely on steadily increasing incarceration rates for their continued survival.
For instance, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit, private prison owner and operator, admitted in its 2010 Annual Report that its “growth is generally dependent upon [its] ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors [it] cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. The demand for [its] facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by [extant] criminal laws.” To circumvent these challenges, CCA spends over $1.2 million each year lobbying for more expansive crime laws. In addition, CCA’s performance as a company hinges on contractually guaranteed occupancy rates of up to 90 percent.
What a deeply perverse set of incentives—the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, state prisons are overrun, and states are broke. Smart states are thinking about how to reduce the numbers of picayune, non-violent offenders in prison while raising tax revenue. Such as legalizing and taxing marijuana with measures like initiative 502.
Not-so-smart states are handing off their prisons to private businesses, which have a profit motive to increase the percentage of US citizens in prison. And remember, recent studies have shown that private prisons cost states (or at least Arizona) money instead of saving money. That makes privatization a lose-lose proposition: losing for the citizens, losing for the states.
So why isn't the Corrections Corporation of America dumping more money into defeating I-502, which is all about decriminalization and therefore smaller prison populations? Maybe because CCA doesn't run any facilities in Washington state. (Look for facilities in your state here.)
In other CCA weekend news, this comes from a report on Sunday by the Ohio Sandusky Register:
The operator of the nation's first privately-owned state prison is scrambling to correct dozens of safety, health and security issues uncovered in a recent Ohio audit.
Corrections Corporation of America has been firmly rebuked by Ohio officials for conditions identified at Lake Erie Correctional Facility in Conneaut during the September management review. The audit report said cells were dirty, inmates lacked clean laundry and blankets, pots and pans weren't clean, doors were standing open, and keys were missing.
There is nothing good about privatizing our nation's prisons. Even investors in companies like CCA will eventually lose.