After 20 years in business, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) still must defend the very nature of its existence, reports the Nashville City Paper. Being the nation’s largest private prison operator has thrust CCA into the spotlight of the debate over whether prisons should be privately owned and run. The issue hit home for CCA when a union of jailers picketed in front of their Nashville headquarters. Their beef: Don’t replace the government-run county jail in Shelby County, Tn., with a private prison.
Opponents claim privately-run jails are understaffed and suffer from high turnover and inadequate training – claims that CCA insists have no basis. Shelby County is weighing a proposal by CCA to fund the costs of a $200 million, 3,600-bed private jail, and charge the county a fee per inmate to manage it. CCA argues that private prisons save government money because companies are willing to foot the typical prison construction cost of $50 million to $100 million. CCA also argues that privatization introduces the element of competition into the public sector. Critics, led by the Private Corrections Institute Inc. in Florida, disagree with CCA’s assessment, saying that many of the studies that CCA relies upon have been financed by the industry. Last year proved to be a challenge for CCA, which saw disturbances and riots break out in its facilities in Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky.