The for-profit prison industry is dominated by two publicly-traded companies: CoreCivic (Formerly CCA) and GEO Group together control 73% of the private prison market in the United States. In 2012, these two companies earned $2.7 billion of our taxpayer dollars for locking our community members behind bars. In the decade prior, they spent $45 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions to ensure that our community members would one day live behind their walls.
CoreCivic is the largest for-profit prison industry company in the U.S., operating 69 correctional and detention facilities in 19 states.[i] Just since 2012, CoreCivic has been a defendant in lawsuits alleging fraudulent understaffing of its facilities[ii], abuse of inmates, and medical neglect.[iii]
The GEO Group (GEO) is the second largest for-profit prison industry company in the U.S., operating 55 correctional and detention facilities in 16 states.[iv] GEO also contracts with the federal government to transport prisoners. GEO was dealt a significant blow in the spring of 2013 when Florida Atlantic University students refused to accept GEO’s money and rallied against the naming of a stadium after the company.[v]
CoreCivic and GEO each have horrendous track-records of jeopardizing the health and safety of the people in their custody and their employees in order to make a profit. Private prison employees are routinely undertrained and paid low wages. [vi] According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “workforce instability has resulted in riots, rapes, assaults and escapes.”[vii] At one now-closed understaffed CoreCivic facility in Idaho, undertrained guards resorted to inciting gang violence among inmates as an “inexpensive device to gain control over the inmate population.”[viii] Accounts of sexual assault, physical abuse, medical neglect, rotten and inadequate food, forced signing of immigration papers, and death have been well-documented at CoreCivic and GEO facilities, despite the fact that these companies do not have to respond to public records act requests. A federal judge called the inhumane conditions at GEO’s now-closed Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”[ix]
Prison Industry Companies have perverted the justice system into a business where the highest bidder is rewarded and crime is job security. As a stipulation in their contracts for individual prisons, CoreCivic and GEO typically require 90% of prison beds to be filled.[x] Such clauses and the millions CoreCivic and GEO spend on lobbying and campaign contributions ensure that state and federal government work for them to create more criminals and detainable immigrants.
CoreCivic and GEO spend millions lobbying each year for policies that sweep more people into jail and detention for longer periods of time. CoreCivic and GEO are dependent upon their institutional investors for their lobbying efforts. Without the liquid capital CoreCivic and GEO receive from investors, they would not have enough money to lobby for unjust policies. In some cases, their biggest investors actually deploy lobbyists to Capitol Hill and the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the prison industry companies. For example, in 2013, CoreCivic and JPMorgan Chase shared the same lobbyists at the lobbying firm McBee Strategic Consulting LLC.[xi]
Most recently, CCA and GEO Group lobbied around Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Their efforts are reflected in Senate Bill 744, which provided for a tripling of funding for Operation Streamline in Arizona. The House’s proposed SAFE Act included significant increases to immigration enforcement.
In September 2013, GEO Group announced a new $30 million contract to lease private prison beds to the State of California. Governor Brown is facing a court order to relieve overcrowding in the state’s prison system but instead of focusing on social solutions and reducing harsh sentences, he opted to contract with GEO Group. Governor Brown is the 8th largest recipient of GEO Group campaign donations.[xii]
[i] “National Portfolio with Geographic Diversity.” CCA Investor Presentation. Sep. 2013. Web. Accessed Oct. 2013. http://ir.correctionscorp.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=117983&p=irol-presentations
[ii]Flatow, Nicole. “Federal Court Holds Private Prison Firm In Contempt For Violating Staffing Agreement.” ThinkProgress. Sep. 2013. Web. Accessed Sep. 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/09/18/2637501/federal-court-holds-private-prison-firm-contempt-violating-staffing-agreement/
[iv] “The GEO Group, Inc.” United States Securities And Exchange Commission. Dec. 2012. Web. Accessed Oct. 2013. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/923796/000119312513087892/d493925d10k.htm#tx493925_5
[v] Sherman, Rodger. “FAU drops GEO Group stadium deal amid controversy.” SBNation. Apr. 2, 2013.
[vi] AFSCME. Making a Killing : How Prison Corporations are Profiting from Campaign Contributions and Putting Taxpayers at Risk. http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/privatization/pdf/AFSCME-Report_Making-A-Killing.pdf
[vii] American Civil Liberties Union – Ohio. Prisons for Profit. April 2011. http://www.readbag.com/acluohio-issues-criminaljustice-prisonsforprofit2011-04
[viii] Boone, Rebecca. “ACLU-ID says CCA may be violating ‘Gladiator School’ settlement.” Huffington Post.Nov. 14, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/aclu-idaho-corrections-corporation-of-america-gladiator-school-_n_2133450.html
[ix] Flatow, Nicole. “Private prison executive isn’t telling the truth about GEO’s record of juvenile abuse.” Think Progress. March 5, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/03/05/1675471/private-prison-executive-isnt-telling-the-truth-about-geos-record-of-juvenile-abuse/
[x] McBride, Michael. “Seeking Redemption: Private Prisons: Gov. Jerry Brown and All of Us.” Huffington Post. Oct. 2013. Web. Accessed Sep.2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pastor-michael-mcbride/california-private-prisons_b_3996493.html
[xi] McBee Strategies Consulting, LLC. Lobbying Disclosure 2013 Quarter Reports for JPMorgan Chase and CCA.