Corrections Corporation of America has control over nearly half of Hawai’i’s prison population in what may be the state’s biggest venture into privatization, the Honolulu Advertiser reports. Publicly traded CCA is the nation’s largest private provider of jail and prison services, and has the sixth-largest corrections system, behind only the federal government and four states. It owns and operates 39 facilities and manages 38 others. The company also owns three facilities that are leased to other operators. CCA is present in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
CCA reported revenues of $1.15 billion last year, and last week became Hawai’i’s sole provider of Mainland prison space. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is filling a dire need for more prison beds while saving governments millions of dollars. A lawsuit filed by inmates alleging unsafe conditions at a CCA prison in Youngstown, Ohio, resulted in a $1.65 million settlement with CCA. The prison closed in 2001, but CCA reopened it last year to accommodate federal detainees. More recent CCA troubles include a five-hour 2004 riot involving inmates from Washington, Colorado, and Wyoming at a Colorado facility. CCA’s formula for success includes buying or building prisons in rural or depressed communities such as Tutwiler, Ms., and Wheelwright, Ky., providing needed jobs in areas with high unemployment. That strategy helps CCA keep wages relatively low, which is critical because labor is the primary cost in operating a prison. Because CCA relies on government contracts, it has not shied away from playing politics. The company last year contributed $100,000 to the DeLay Foundation for Kids, a charity established by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, who has been indicted in a Texas political fundraising scandal.