There’s money to be made in private prison investments, says SmartMoney.com. Investors in Geo Group have seen their stakes more than triple in value in the past year. The company, based in Boca Raton, Fl., operates in the shadow of Corrections Corp. of America, the nation’s largest publicly traded prison company, but Geo is making bigger gains. SmartMoney.com cites a severe shortage of prison space in the U.S., leaving states and the federal government with no choice but to outsource incarceration to nimbler, and cheaper, private concerns.
More than 7 percent of the 2.2 million people behind bars are in private facilities. Geo has about 30 percent of that market. One analyst says the private sector can build prisons for about $60,000 per bed. States build at at a price around $75,000 to $80,000 per bed, and the federal government builds at higher than $100,000 per bed. One financial analyst says private prisons are almost counter-cyclical to the broader economy: “When times are bad, more people tend to go to jail. It’s awful, but it’s true.”