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.
The population incarcerated in for-profit prisons increased 45 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to a new data analysis by The Sentencing Project. Private prisons held about 8 percent of the total U.S. prison population in 2015.
“Motivated to turn a profit, private prisons pay their officers less, provide fewer hours of training and have higher inmate-to-staff ratios, a combination that often results in more inmate assaults,” says the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
A Democratic state representative sent a letter urging Republican Gov. Rick Scott to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of the privately managed Gadsden Correctional Facility, which houses 1,500 female inmates.
A spokesman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his move will restore the federal flexibility to manage the federal inmate population based on capacity needs.” The measure rescinds a DOJ decision last August to “substantially” reduce the use of private prisons, which then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates argued “do not save substantially on costs and … do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
President Trump has authorized the use of private contractors “to construct, operate, or control facilities” in what is expected to be a substantial ramp-up of the massive detention system that thrived under the Obama administration. With the number of immigrant detainees already at historic levels, critics warn that rapidly expanding prisons will only exacerbate squalid living conditions and substandard medical care.
Industry analysts expect the President-elect to reverse the Obama administration’s order phasing out Justice Department contracts with private prison firms. One financial-services company calls private prisons “a compelling investment opportunity.”