Private Prisons Seek Comeback As Population Drops

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Alex Friedmann was transferred to a Tennessee public prison in 1998 after spending six years in a private facility. Everything was different: There were more blankets, the toilet paper wasn’t as cheap, and correctional officers were everywhere. After his release in 1999, Friedmann at the Human Rights Defense Center began fighting to abolish private prisons. He says the for-profit model encourages the business to cut corners, affecting inmates’ safety and quality of living. Increasingly, criticisms of private, for-profit facilities have been reflected in policy and spending. Lawmaker in states like California and Nevada have banned private prisons from operating. Businesses are increasingly cutting ties with the industry following pushback from their customers, reports

The number of inmates in these facilities is declining. After a peak in 2012 of about 136,220, the private prison population has decreased about 12 percent in the past five years as more facilities close. Some in the industry have begun to accept that private prisons may not exist in the future. CoreCivic, the nation’s largest and oldest private prison firm, has begun to plan for another federal private prison ban if a Democratic candidate wins the 2020 presidential election. In an attempt to avoid having to rely on contingency plans, the for-profit prison industry has established an advocacy group called Day 1 Alliance (D1A). The group launched on October 25 and is backed by the largest companies in the industry: CoreCivic will provide initial funding while GEO Group and Management & Training Corporation — the second and third largest companies in the marketplace — will take on leadership roles. D1A will focus on changing public opinion that has soured on the industry. Spokeswoman Alexandra Wilkes said it will focus on spreading its message by engaging with the media.

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