4 Things You Didn't Know About the Company That Owns More Than 80,000 Prisoners


Even though George Zimmerman was not sent to prison for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin or the confrontation with his soon to be ex-wife and her father, the United States still leads the world in incarcerated human beings. State and federal governments are responsible for charging and prosecuting people in criminal actions, but after the guilty plea or verdict and the sentence, your government is more than happy to turn the convicted over to a privately owned prison. When a person hears the door of a prison slammed behind him or her, there is a good chance that the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owns the real estate where the person will serve his or her sentence.

In July, Anonymous, the Internet advocacy group, released a report analyzing CCA's business. Anonymous found that while CCA was making huge amounts of cash from mass incarceration, that the well might not always be so deep. It should not be deep: People are not commodities. Investments should not be made on the backs of people no matter what one thinks of their crimes or character. Our corrections system should be about rehabilitation and retribution, not remuneration. 

1. CCA is a public, billion-dollar corporation

The deprivation of freedom is big business. CCA's revenue totals a little over $1 billion. Boasting ownership of 44 facilities and contracts with 16 more, CCA can house 90,000 inmates and currently controls the lives of 80,000 people. Every agency in the federal system that can detain people does by contracting with CCA. In fact, CCAs began by housing immigration detainees in Texas.

2. Not everyone thinks private prisons make sense

As recently as June 2013, finance and investment information website the Motley Fool saw CCA's model and did not think it made any sense and did not see any growth. The whole profit idea is based on ensuring people are going to spend time in prison or immigration detention. As governments try to cut costs and shrink prison populations, CCA will have empty beds, leaving investors with empty feelings and emptier pockets. CCA has to sell itself as a company that will save the state money while maximizing profits for shareholders.  That model means that they are paying as little as they can to staff and for inmate care and safety.

3. CCA spends a lot of money on lobbying

Government relations, the nicer-sounding euphemism for lobbying, is a big part of CCA's expenditures. In 2012, the corporation spent almost $1 million on lobbying. CCA placed $630,000 in the pockets of lobbyists through late July of 2013.  

4. CCA is hitting hard times

Despite efforts to the contrary, CCA's problems are coming to the forefront. CCA filed a protective order with a federal judge to stop Idaho media organizations from getting information in a lawsuit about the conditions in one of its facilities in the state. The lawsuit behind the request for the protective order charges CCA with allowing gangs to take over a facility and put other inmates in danger.