Wackenhut Set To Expand Private Prison Business

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Now that Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corporation has bought back the majority share of its stock from parent Wackenhut Corp., the company plans to increase its core corrections business and to expand its reach to mental health institutions and detention centers for illegal immigrants, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. “Next year we hope to be a billion-dollar company,” said CEO George Zoley.

The Sun-Sentinel says that the firm faces a “sluggish U.S. market for private prisons and is going up against its former parent and other aggressive competitors. The company also is struggling to polish its reputation, tarnished by accusations of sexual and physical abuse in its prisons.”

WCC claims 21 percent of the U.S. corrections market and 41 percent of the international market.

The firm now has $569 million in annual revenues operating in the United States, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada.

Prison-security companies face a tightening U.S. market, with shrinking state budgets and fewer prisons being built. WCC’s largest U.S. competitor, Corrections Corporation of America, houses 55,000 inmates in 20 states. New contract opportunities are related to homeland security. WCC recently won a five-year contract worth up to $35 million with the Department of Homeland Security for residential housing for female immigration detainees. Federal business is 20 percent of WCC’s revenues, “and we expect that to increase significantly,” Zoley said.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that because institutions for women and juveniles are difficult and costly parts of the corrections business, WCC it is not bidding on any new business in these fields.

Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association in Tallahassee, said private corrections firms save money by employing fewer staff members and paying less. Kopczynski objects to privatizing prisons. “Corrections is a core function of government. Making a profit on the incarceration of human beings is immoral.”

Zoley responds: “If you have a relative who’s going to prison, whose prison would you rather they be in, the government’s prison? Take a look at their prison and ours.”

Link: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/local/sfl-sbwack07sep07,0,2020298.story

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