Human Rights

24 Astounding Facts About the Private Prison Industry

"You could sell prisons just like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers."

The private prison market is as hot as ever. Who wouldn't want to get rich off the increasing number of incarcerated American citizens, staffers who sexually assault minors and the horrific living quarters that plague offenders and spark riots

1. The for-profit prison industry is worth more than $70 billion.

Lauren/ Flickr

2. There are currently 33 states with private prisons.

Netflix

States with contracts to private facilities include: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

3. And 17 states without them.

Netflix

The states with public-only facilities are Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

4. The popularity of private prisons can be traced back to the abolishment of slavery in America.

Alec Monopoly / LAB Art Gallery

The first for-profit prison in the U.S.. was established in 1852 and the new business model spread across the states when plantation and business owners sought replacements for their freed slaves. By 1868, convict leases were issued to private parties to replenish their workforce.

5. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of incarcerated inmates in private facilities increased by more than 1600 percent.

Alec Monopoly / Instagram

Thanks to former President Ronald Reagan's war on drugs, the prison population began to skyrocket and in 1985, the CCA took over its first facility in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

6. The first modern private prison company was the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

CCA / Mother Jones

The CCA banked on its business model by sending out letters to 48 states, offering to buy state-run facilities and using the disproven theory of a more cost-effective and cheaper prison. 

7. Nowadays, the CCA is the largest private prison company in the states. 

Alec Monopoly / Instagram

The CCA manages more than 61 facilities with over 90,000 beds. 2011 marked a record year of profits for CCA, raising $1.7 billion in total revenue and bringing home $3.7 million to CEO Damon T. Hininger.

8. The CCA has seen quite a few lawsuits.

CCA / Twitter

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed many lawsuits against the private company ranging from sexual assault accusations against CCA staffers, imprisoning people for profit and cutting corners at most of their facilities.

9. While the CCA ran Idaho's largest prison, it earned the nickname "Gladiator School."

CCA / Twitter

The CCA and Idaho's decade-long contract ended after an FBI investigation of the Idaho Corrections Center. A prior Department of Justice investigation revealed that the CCA understaffed the violent prison by as much as 26,000 hours in 2012. A $1 million settlement between the state and CCA was eventually reached.

10. There's a proposed bill that would prevent inmates from suing the CCA from anywhere except the county in which the prison operates.

Pepperbytheway / Instagram

11. GEO Group, Inc. is the second largest private detention company in the states.

GEO Group, Inc. / Facebook

The company currently operates 106 domestic facilities and accumulated $1.5 billion in total revenue back in 2011. Executive compensation for CEO George C. Zoley also brought home $5.7 million in 2011.

12. GEO Group has also seen its fair share of lawsuits.

Alec Monopoly / My Modern Met

GEO owes $6.5 million in damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of an inmate by his cellmate at an Oklahoma prison. The company has since filed a petition against the ruling.

In 2011, the New Mexico Department of Corrections filed a $1.1 million fine against the company for inadequate staffing at one of its facilities.

13. Both CCA and GEO Group spend millions lobbying Congress.

Alec Monopoly / Instagram

The CCA spent roughly $20 million on lobbying expenditures in the past ten years. The company has also paid more than $4 million in political contributions in the past 18 years.

GEO spent $3.5 million on lobbying expenditures in the past ten years. The company has also given more than $5.5 million in political contributions during the past 12 years.

14. They also lobby for high bail amounts.

Tommy Chan / Instagram

The bail industry accumulates nearly $2 billion in revenue annually, according to reports by The Nation. The American Bail Coalition spent $3.1 million lobbying for judges to set higher bail amounts between 2002 and 2011.

15. There are 133,000 state and federal inmates housed in private facilities.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Private prisons hold 7 percent of the total state prison population and 19 percent of the federal prison population

16. 89 percent of California inmates held in private prisons are young people of color.

Alec Monopoly / Art Is Thick

A study by a UC-Berkeley graduate student found that young people of color are overrepresented by 12 percent in private prisons across California, Texas and Arizona — three states with the largest private facilities in the country.

17. More than half of all immigrants detained in the U.S.. are held in private facilities.

UMWomen / Flickr

Private prisons make $5.1 billion detaining immigrants

18. Two Pennsylvania judges were busted in the "kids-for-cash" scandal. 

Steven Depolo / Flickr

In 2009, two judges were caught accepting $2.6 million in bribes in exchange for convicting more than 5,000 children for petty crimes. One judge was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison while the other received 28 years. Three private prison companies in northeastern Pennsylvania that settled the federal lawsuit for $2.5 million.

19. A Missouri youth correctional facility was busted for sexual assault and violence against youth inmates.

Rennett Snowe / Flickr

A DOJ investigation into the GEO Group-run Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility found that staffers were sexually abusing minors and subjecting inmates to prolonged solitary confinement. After the investigation, WGYCF changed its name and the state of Mississippi ended its contract with the facility, transferring the youngest occupants to a state-run facility.

20. 65 percent of contracts between for-profit prisons and local governments include lockup quotas.

bullmelone / Instagram

When judges and law enforcement don't push enough people into for-profit prisons to meet each quota, taxpayers foot the bill for the empty cells, In the Public Interest reports.

21. Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia have contracts with 95 and 100 percent occupancy requirements.

Ruby Cheng / Instagram

22. And three Arizona prisons operate with 100 percent quotas.

Kashfi Halford / Flickr

The company’s per-day fee for each prisoner has increased an average of 13.9 percent each year, according to the Tucson Citizen

23. Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ohio operates with a 90 percent quota.

@sws_chloe / Instagram

In 2011, the CCA paid the state of Ohio $72 million to run the Lake Erie Correctional Institution. By 2012, state audits revealed the prison was understaffed, provided "unacceptable" living conditions, failed to provide adequate mental health services and failed to give inmates access to running water and toilets.

24. And despite all the controversies, there's no proof that private prisons are saving taxpayers money.

Alec Monopoly / Instagram

One study of Arizona's prisons shows that the state is actually losing $3.5 million a year by sending inmates to for-profit facilities.

Justin Michael Carissimo is a writer living in Brooklyn. He's written for BuzzFeed, Legal Funding Central, International Business Times and Ashton Kutcher's A+. Follow him on Twitter: @JstnMchl.

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