A Wall Street giant, Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets.” In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
Corrections Corporation has been a swiftly growing business, with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the ’80s and ’90s at the height of the so-called ‘war on drugs’. During the past 10 years, it has found new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants, as the federal government has contracted with private companies in an aggressive immigrant-detention campaign.
A series of studies has cast doubt on the private prison industry’s main selling point: efficiency. Research across numerous states has shown that the promised savings from private prisons can be illusory at best. What’s more, many civil liberties advocates question why a profit motive should be tied to incarceration policies, raising concerns that cutting costs could have an adverse effect on public safety.