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Profiting Off Prisoners

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Sep 26, 2013

The prison system seems full of mystery. Not many people understand the workings behind the scenes, such as the difference between private and public prisons, and the people that profit from them. Check out the infographic below, which details the financial and static numbers behind the private prison system.

The United States began toying with the idea of private prisons back in 1984. From 1990 to 2009, the inmate population housed in private prisons increased more than 1,600%. The two largest private prison companies, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, Inc., have generated over $3.4 billion in revenue. This is more than the GDP of Greenland and the Virgin Islands combined. The CEO of the GEO Group, Inc., Damon T. Hininger, netted $3.7 million in 2011 as his executive compensation, and CCA CEO George C. Zaloey made $5.7 million in 2011.

The CCA has 66 facilities with 90,000 beds, and the GEO group has 56 facilities with 61,000 beds. Both companies have faced legal battles as well. The GEO Group, Inc. has been fined over $7.6 million for wrongful death suits and fines involving staffing problems. Private run facilities also report a higher instance of violence–but it doesn’t stop there. Private run facilities also face criticism over racial concerns. Private facilities boast a higher number of minority inmates than state-run facilities. Private run facilities have also seen a 25% increase in the number of immigration detainees since 2003, and a 457% increase since 1994.

Private prisons claim they can boost local economies and state budgets, however, many of these dreams turn to nightmares. Once such case, in Hardin, Montana, cost their town millions. $27 million in bonds were issued for the construction of the prison, with a promise of 67 jobs. When the prison project was completed, and then unfulfilled contracts left it abandoned, the town was left to spend $8,000 to fix leaky pipes in a new building, and fork out $10,000 every month for the gas bill at a facility that remained empty.

For people of faith and conscience, these realities are particularly distressing and we must speak out against the so-called “prison industrial complex.” Last year, Standing on the Side of Love helped convince a number of major corporations to withdraw from the American Legislative Exchange (ALEC), a major supporter of the private prison industry. Other faith groups, such as the United Methodist Board of Pensions, have also divested from CCA and the Geo Group.


This post was submitted by Aria Cahill.

One Response to “Profiting Off Prisoners”

  1. Claire Deroche says:

    Thank you for this important information. CCA and GEO Group are sinister corporations and should be driven out of business. One way to do that is to hold $2500 worth of their stock and engage in shareholder activism, thereby confronting them directly about their cruel treatment of persons incarcerated in their facilities. I hope that organizations considering divestment from these stocks might instead consider joining members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility who are confronting the management of these corporations directly.

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