Thirty years of private prisons: New report details trouble behind bars

Categories: Business, Politics

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Launched in 1983 by a group of Kentucky Fried Chicken investors, the Corrections Corporation of America is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year with plenty of celebrations and speeches. But there's one gift the world's largest private-prison operator isn't eager to open -- a new report by the incarceration reformers at Grassroots Leadership, listing thirty of the company's worst instances of mismanagement, folly, riot and scandal as its profits have swelled with the prison boom over the past three decades.

Operating 65 prison and immigration detention facilities in 19 states, CCA reported revenues in excess of $1.7 billion in 2012. The company spends lavishly lobbying state and federal officials, persuading them that subcontracting chunks of their prison population to CCA at a certain daily fee per head will save them money in the long run. But critics of the company say the for-profit model cuts too many corners, resulting in ill-trained and poorly paid staff, inadequate medical care, and bare-bones hoosegows that may be hundreds or thousands of miles from the prisoner's family and support network, hindering prospects for successful re-entry.

In Colorado, despite the recent drop in the prison population, CCA continues to operate lockups in Burlington, Las Animas and Olney Springs. (A fourth, the Huerfano County Correctional Facility, is currently vacant.) How CCA has managed to get the state to guarantee bodies to fill beds in those three prisons, while Colorado has been closing state prisons elsewhere, is one of the thirty intrigues discussed in the Grassroots Leadership report.

The report also delves into the history of drug trafficking and sex scandals at Burlington's Kit Carson Correctional Facility, first reported in my 1999 feature "McPrison"; and the 2004 riot at the Crowley prison, which led to a recent settlement for $600,000 with former inmates who were brutalized by guards in the aftermath.

But that's hardly the extent of CCA's star turns in our state. For more on the state of CCA medical care, I'd suggest reading about the fate of a minor offender named Terrell Griswold.

From our archives: "Joe Arridy was the happiest man on death row."

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14 comments
DougHubka
DougHubka

Nothing short of a  disgrace. The very worst kind of a "public-Private Partnership" that we all hear about thee days.

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

Even those who work in corrections in Russia shudder at the thought of the American penal system.

John Twigg
John Twigg

There is no practical difference between a private for profit prison and a slave plantation

Benjamin Bradburn
Benjamin Bradburn

Perverse incentives. Really bad. I agree that it is probably worse.

Shelia Canfield-Jones
Shelia Canfield-Jones

For Profit Prison's are Wrong!!! I agree with John. When profit out ways the treatment it's a losing situation that only perpetuates the cycle of criminal behavior.

Mike Milos
Mike Milos

Prison for profit is a HORRIBLE thing! It has made us the Prison Country! Freedom my ass!

Bruce Tanner
Bruce Tanner

My perspective from the inside out; not! But then who listens to those that have been apprehended by "Do you know who?". For what reason and by what suspiscion???

John Twigg
John Twigg

I believe that the situation is way worse than has been reported so far

Charlie Whiskey
Charlie Whiskey

How could incentivizing putting people behind bars be a bad idea?!?

chillin662
chillin662

I worked at a CCA prison in Mississippi which houses California prisons. If the public knew how horrific these places are that are operating without any state or federal oversight, there would be outrage (but there's a system in place to ensure the news doesn't get out. Numerous inmate (and staff) deaths in the past year or two alone yet NO national media coverage. A female officer was dragged down a flight of stairs resulting in a broken jaw and kneecap. NO media coverage. An officer was killed in a fed prison last year. NO media coverage. Numerous inmate deaths as a result of poor health care (cutting corners like private prisons do in every aspect of their operations). 


There's a lot more I could say on this topic with my knowledge of these private prisons but I will save it for another post.

Please sign my petition to bring attention to these private prisons here in Misissippi:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/no-more-deaths-at-private?source=c.tw&r_by=7695613

thinkintruth
thinkintruth

Our country is designed around private business. Without profit from efficient business practices there will be no government by the people. When the government runs business it is nearly always inefficiant and wasteful, because there is no incentive to be profitable or efficient. There is also a LACK of oversight when the government oversees itself! But I promise you that not a single employee of a government run prison works for free out of the goodness of their heart! A business running with government oversight and providing a service to government that is more efficient cannot be fascism by any sense of the definition. It is capitalism. Anyone opposed would be promoting fascism. (Since we are down to name calling). Jails historically were privately owned and the city rented the cells. This actually makes sense. Then the private business pays taxes, and submits to government oversight and authority and laws, BUT the government doesn't have to run a business and hire a bunch of people to build and maintain and feed and house and secure and manage all of the business details. Just oversee that it is done properly. That is how our nation is supposed to work. We are rapidly becoming a socialist nation, (that is NOT a good thing - if you think you want socialism, there are plenty of miserable socialist nations out there - go join one) and the government running everything is part of the problem, now that our constitution can be overridden by the courts at whim, and truth is relative to how people feel. The people and constitution no longer have authority, and if this keeps up we won't have a democracy much longer. Thank you, Legislators, for believing in free enterprise.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Every legislative session that passes without any legislator demanding the closure of all corporate prisons and every day that Gov. Hack fails to do so is a blot on Colorado's history and integrity -- fascism is very ugly.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@thinkintruth There is a time for every purpose under Heaven, and it is time to call you out for what you are -- a fascist.  Private enterprise is not inherently any better or worse than govenment enterprise, but the fascists have persuaded many people who live here otherwise, and the result is that we cannot even conceive of undertaking economic activity for the commonweal (go look it up).  Socialism does not imply totalitarianism, nor does it require the cessation of private enterprise.  The civilized nations of the world manage quite well with a mix of both private and government enterprise; any number have comparable or higher standards of living that the United States.  If, as the Founders supposed, a free people are capable of electing true representatives, then fear of the government or of the government being involved in productive economic activity makes exactly no sense, because we are the government.  Sadly, we have allowed the fascists to so indoctinate our People that few are capable much less interested in discharging the duties of  citizens.  Corporations drive an ever greater proportion of the population about as though they were herd animals, and the nation that still dares call itself "the land of the free" is now the least free on Earth, because we imprison more people than any other.  Coining money and waging war are two of the functions of government addressed by the Founders (of course, we have subverted their intent that the People's representatives should determine whether we go to war by waging undeclared war, and by using corporations to conduct most of the business of war), but it did not occur to them that their successors would be so stupid as to make the imprisonment of Americans a for-profit, private enterprise.  You may be an exemplar of why the American experiment has failed, but your support of corporate prisons is definitely exemplary of the folly of substituting the pernicious, selfish belief that our country benefits when its citizens are motivated by greed for patriotism and the principles our forefathers thought might guide our nation in sound judgment.  Before it is too late, true Americans need to repudiate and fight to extirpate fascism -- the lives of 100,000,000 American fascists are inconsequential when measured against the prospect of returning American Freedom to our Land.

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