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April 24, 2018

"The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players"

The title of this post is the title of this new report from the Corrections Accountability Project at the Urban Justice Center.  Here is its introduction:

In 1983, CoreCivic received its first contract to operate a correctional facility, marking the birth of the private prison industry.  The following year, The GEO Group also entered the private prison market.  Over the next 35 years, as the U.S. carceral population mounted from roughly 660,000 to more than 2.2 million, the competitors would grow to own and operate roughly 130 correctional facilities with over 150,000 beds.

By 2017, CoreCivic and The GEO Group were generating combined annual revenues of $4 billion on the more than 45 million individual nights that people spend incarcerated in their correctional facilities every year.

But CoreCivic and The GEO Group, the most recognized, discussed, and targeted for-profit entities operating in the prison industrial complex, are far from the only companies that recognized an opportunity in the prison boom that started in the1970s. In fact, they were not even the first.

Today, more than half of the $80 billion spent on incarceration annually in the U.S. is used to pay the thousands of vendors that serve the criminal legal system. They are healthcare providers, food suppliers, commissary merchants, and more. Focused on their bottom line and advantaged by an obscure and often monopolistic environment, the private, for-profit corporations that operate in the prison industrial complex raise particular concerns for the incarcerated population, vulnerable to corporate abuse.

This report exposes over 3,100 corporations that profit from the devastating mass incarceration of our nation’s marginalized communities. It serves as the largest lens into the prison industrial complex ever published. While this report still far from covers all the private sector companies in this space, it captures all the major players.

At the Corrections Accountability Project, our hope is that advocates, litigators, journalists, investors, and the public will use the report to further understand the expansive nature of the prison industrial complex and familiarize themselves with its players. This report should serve as a resource in the fight against the commercialization of our criminal legal system.

April 24, 2018 at 10:52 AM | Permalink


While there is nothing inherently wrong with profit-centric private prisons, the problem is that the incentive to provide for crony relationships between government bureaucrats and prison company CEO's and stockholders is almost as bad as the combined graft between beureaucrats and government (non-profit-centric) prisons. There is a way around this dilemma.

Basically, base fees on not just incarceration, but in successful reintegration of the convict back into society, based upon recidivism avoidance. Other bonus points can involve the former convict getting, and keeping, a job, achieving educational degrees in job-oriented fields, and other benchmarks that are supposed to be part of the mission of any "correctional" system.

Ideally, if a prison system can produce such results, then it SHOULD be rewarded with higher profits (if profit-centric) or greater accolades and prioritization of implementation (if government-centric). But if we are going to insist upon denigrating a particular system rather than punish abusers of the system, then it matters not whether the penile institution is public or private.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 25, 2018 11:52:28 AM

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