the crippling cost of imprisoning increasing numbers of Americans saddles government budgets with rising debt and exacerbates the current fiscal crises confronting states across the nation.Further:
Leading private prison companies essentially admit that their business model depends on high rates of incarceration. For example, in a 2010 Annual Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company, stated: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .”
As incarceration rates skyrocket, the private prison industry expands at exponential rates, holding ever more people in its prisons and jails, and generating massive profits. Private prisons for adults were virtually non-existent until the early 1980s, but the number of prisoners in private prisons increased by approximately 1600% between 1990 and 2009. Today, for-profit companies are responsible for approximately 6% of state prisoners, 16% of federal prisoners, and, according to one report, nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government. In 2010, the two largest private prison companies alone received nearly $3 billion dollars in revenue, and their top executives, according to one source, each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million.Another section of the report critiques the corporate-friendly American Legislative Exchange Council, declaring that "ALEC has not only done work that helped increase the amount of taxpayer money spent on corrections generally but has also supported policies likely to increase the proportion of corrections spending funneled to private corporations."
The report also documents the impact of expanded federal immigration detention practices which has been a hobby horse of this blog for many years. "The past decade has borne out the prediction that 9/11 would be good business for private prisons. By 2010, the average daily population of immigration detainees stood at 31,020, more than a 50% increase over the 2001 level (and an increase of roughly 450% over the 1994 level)."
pdf) was a Texas case: A disastrous private contract between the GEO Group and the soon-to-be-defunct Texas Youth Commission, which had hired former Geo employees to monitor their contract to manage the since-closed Coke County facility.
In both juvenile and adult settings, the "revolving door" phenomenon is something about which one hears numerous back-room whispers, but seldom fact-based documentation. It happens, but how commonly? I've never seen hard data, but could cite many anecdotes. Most blatantly, federal Bureau of Prisons chief Harvey Lappin this year left federal employment to become an executive at Corrections Corporation of America. Adds the report, "The company’s payroll also includes a second former BOP Director: J. Michael Quinlan serves as a Senior Vice President of CCA." In 2010, President Obama named a high-dollar Geo Group consultant the head of the US Marshals service. And I know there's at least some cross-pollination between TDCJ and private contractors.
Grits wonders what a more comprehensive review would reveal about this "revolving door" pheomenon between the leadership of private and state-run prison systems? Anecdotally it seems common, particularly among top decisionmakers who might have sway influencing government contracts. But the Coke County example involved lower-level employees migrating back and forth from state to private employment being hired to provide oversight to their former (and potentially future) employer. That situation strikes me as potentially fairly common and makes me wonder precisely how deep that particular rabbit hole goes?
MORE: From Texas Prison Bidness, Sentencing Law & Policy, CNBC, and NPR.