Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
February 16, 2012
The nation’s largest private prison company is offering cash-strapped state governments to buy up their penitentiaries and manage convicted criminals at a cost-savings. But there’s a catch…the states must guarantee that are there are enough prisoners to ensure that the venture is profitable to the company.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has reached out to 48 states as part of a $250 million plan to own existing prisons and manage their operations. But in return CCA wants a 20-year contract and assurances that the state will keep the prisons at least 90% full.
In the past CCA has operated its own prisons and contracted with states to house inmates. But until now the company never offered to essentially take over public corrections systems.
Ohio already has sold one of its largest prisons to CCA. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wanted last year to sell three of his state’s prisons to the company, but the legislature refused to go along.
Critics of the plan warn that if states commit to CCA’s deal, they could find themselves with little bargaining power down the road once it comes time to negotiate new contracts. And, if the crime rate continues dropping, will police, prosecutors and judges feel compelled to supply human “product” for the prisons anyway?