Shane Bauer of Mother Jones turned his reporting on a private prison into a book, “American Prison.” NPR calls it “both the remarkable story of a journalist who spent four months working as a corrections officer, and a horrifying exposé of how prisoners were treated by a corporation that profited from them.”
Commonwealth authorities have been negotiating with CoreCivic, one of the nation’s leading private corrections companies for the transport of prisoners to Arizona, in an effort to reduce the burden on the island’s antiquated prisons and jails—many of which were rendered uninhabitable by last year’s Hurricane Maria.
The number of people housed in private prisons increased five times faster than the total prison population between 2000 and 2016, and detainees in private immigration facilities increased by 442 percent in same period, says the Sentencing Project, predicting that as overall prison populations decline, corrections companies will “seek profit in other areas of criminal justice services and immigration detention.”
Beyond the ideological debates about prison privatization, privately run corrections facilities are likely to continue to be used by cash-strapped governments. In a new book, Lauren-Brooke Eisen of New York University says it’s time to explore how the private corrections industry can become a partner in reducing recidivism.
Current and former inmates allege that CoreCivic is violating a federal anti-human trafficking law with a work program it oversees. The center says the program as voluntary. The lawsuit says detainees are paid about $1 to $4 per day for tasks such as mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, and serving meals.
Evidence of violence and inmate neglect abounds in a case involving the private East Mississippi Correctional Facility. The state requires private lockups to operate at 10 percent lower than the cost of state facilities.
Rep. Jeremy Faison said the state should stop outsourcing its constitutional responsibility. Tennessee is the home base of national private prison firm CoreCivic, and more than one third of the state’s 22,000 inmates are in the firm’s prisons.
In 2013, the two dominant American private prison firms, Corecivic and the Geo Group, restructured as so-called “real estate investment trusts,” known as REITs. Under the GOP tax bill, taxes paid on REITs investments by individuals will be cut 25 percent.
An Oregon State University professor says his comparative study of prison demographics also supports critics who claim private prisons “skim the best inmates with the lowest needs in their attempt to minimize costs.” The study found that inmates in for-profit institutions serve disproportionately shorter sentences than those incarcerated in state and federal prisons.