Tennessee Republican Would Curb Private Prison Use

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A Tennessee Republican wants the state to stop using private prisons. It’s an uphill battle, considering that national private prison giant CoreCivic calls Nashville home and more than one-third of the state’s 22,000 inmates are housed in CoreCivic prisons, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Jeremy Faison said the state should stop outsourcing its constitutional responsibility. “Our Tennessee state Constitution says that government is supposed to carry out justice, not, ‘somebody who’s trying to make money gets to carry out justice.’ That’s crazy,” Faison said. His bill would prevent future private prison contracts from containing what’s known as an occupancy guarantee. It’s a promise from the state to keep the prison at 90 percent capacity, or pay the contractor as though the prison were 90 percent full even if it’s not.

Such guarantees are one of the main critiques of private prison opponents: they argue it’s a monetary incentive for states to keep prisons full. “If they don’t have a guarantee of money, they’re investors…they’re going to get nervous, because they don’t have a guarantee. They’re going to have to earn a living like the rest of us to do,” said Faison, who runs a pest control business when not at the legislature. Faison predicted state and private prison officials would fight the legislation. However, a state correction department spokeswoman said the state would not oppose the bill, and CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said the company does not require occupancy guarantees in its contracts.

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