Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets,” reports the Huffington Post. In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full. The move reflects a significant shift in strategy for the private prison industry, which until now has expanded by building prisons of its own or managing state-controlled prisons. It also represents an unprecedented bid for more control of state prison systems.
Corrections Corporation has been a swiftly growing business, with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the ’80s and ’90s at the height of the so-called ‘war on drugs,’ contracting with state governments to build or manage new prisons to house an influx of drug offenders. During the past 10 years, it has found new opportunities in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants. CCA’s offer of $250 million toward purchasing existing state prisons is yet another avenue for potential growth. The company has billed the “corrections investment initiative” as a convenient option for states in need of fresh revenue streams: The state benefits from a one-time infusion of cash, while the prison corporation wins a new long-term contract.