The Biggest, Baddest Prison Profiteer of Them All

This piece was originally published on The Nation's website.

"CCA" has become a dirty word.

Kanye West cited it when rapping about America's class of "New Slaves." Anonymous invoked it to describe a bad financial investment that undermines justice. And for state after state, the word represents a failed approach to public safety.

And that's how it should be. Because profiting off mass incarceration is a dirty business. When private prison company Corrections Corporation of America – or CCA – squanders taxpayer money and runs facilities rife with human rights abuses, it's dragging its own name through the mud.

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All private prison companies have corrupting incentives. One is to save money by cutting corners. Another is to promote their bottom line even when that's not the best means to securing public safety, taxpayer value, fairness, and justice. CCA isn't the only company with these incentives. But it has done more than any other corporation to grow the private prison industry into a behemoth plagued by abuse and neglect and profiting off our nation's over-reliance on incarceration.

Ask the family of Elsa Guadalupe-Gonzales. She was 24-years-old when she hanged herself in her cell at one of the immigration detention facilities that CCA runs in Texas. Three days later, guards found Jorge Garcia-Mejia dead in his cell at the same facility. He, too, had hanged himself. Two suicides in three days, despite the fact that both Elsa and Jorge were supposed to be closely monitored by guards.

These lapses are indicative of a broader problem. CCA routinely shirks its responsibility to comply with basic standards. In Idaho, CCA employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records. In Ohio, auditors found outrageous violations like prison without running water for toilets, in which prisoners had no choice but to use plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination.

And yet, CCA made $1.7 billion in just the last year – more than any other private prison company.

How do they do it? Although CCA insists that it does not engage in "lobbying or advocacy efforts that would influence enforcement efforts, parole standards, criminal laws, and sentencing policies," the company pours money into both lobbying and campaign contributions. From 2002 to 2012, CCA devoted more than $19 million to lobbying Congress, and its PAC shelled out over $1.4 million to candidates for federal office during the same time period. They wouldn't spend all that money if they didn't think it would expand their market share.

And spending all this money has worked. CCA now manages facilities with over 90,000 prison beds in 20 states. Many of their contracts include "lockup quotas" whereby states promise to keep the company's prisons anywhere from 80-100% full. That's good for CCA, because they're paid per day, per prisoner. It's bad for those of us who think failed policies have led to an era in which too many people are behind bars for too long.

Such agreements incentivize states to pass needlessly harsh laws that would keep bodies flowing into CCA facilities – and cash into the pockets of CCA's shareholders.

Lock-up quotas are only example of a policy that fills CCA's coffers. Another could be immigration reform, if it goes badly. The House Judiciary Committee has passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that, if passed, would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer would lacking papers be just a civil violation; it would also become a federal crime punishable by months or years in a U.S. prison, even if the person poses no public safety risk. This move would also dramatically expand the civil immigration detention system, which could help CCA rake in huge profits since nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.

The cost to taxpayers would be staggering. They would have to pay private prisons billions more dollars to lock up people who are not a threat to public safety.

We need to stop Congress from handing a windfall to prison profiteers through this dangerous, profit-hungry legislation. Tell Speaker Boehner: Don't bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.

As bad as CCA is, it's just one of the many powerful entities getting rich off mass incarceration. We're exposing this network of institutions through a video series produced in partnership by Beyond Bars, the ACLU, and The Nation Magazine. Meet the other Prison Profiteers and take action to fight their abuses at

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My Trader friend, who once worked on Wall Street and at the World Trade Center, calls it "so close to human trafficking that it ought to carry the same penalties for doing it."
Then he said that somebody ought to make their stocks fail in the market and watch while they lose everything but the kitchen sink.

All of his colleagues died in Tower 1 on September 11, but NOT all of them were "greedy bastards the way these prison profiteers are." He thinks everyone should feel compelled to stop this nonsense of profiting from everything you see.

He wasn't born with money and didn't go to a fancy university, nor did he have any trust funds waiting for him to make good on. He worked for everything he has.
He has a real problem with people profiting off everything, finding nothing sacred, no matter WHAT it does to hurt people and in the long run the economy.


Corporation prisons set quotas for the number of prisoners that must be locked up for profit. Is that really be good for taxpayers and the United States?


I was a inside customer of a CCA ( convict ) worked on the chow hall ( kitchen ) warehouse specially stuff for the cooks and seen pallets of expired beef and other meats brough up to serve inmates, and I mean expired dates of 8 months and over, and on state ran facilities that had a furniture factoty which convict worked on got accused of stealing hundred of thousands of oak wood!!! First of all security prevents you from taking anything out of there, but think what a convict uses oak planks for? we could not eat it, smoke it or get high on it, and those are a few of what I can tell you here, greed is there from jump start, thats why there's very few job training or education, first they want you to come back then divide and conquer or get set up so the different gangs eliminate each other, bets are made on this and stocks never go down ect. It is what it is I been calling it the other slavery over 30 years I went to a juvinale facility when I was 8 first time, but the society it's keept busy just surviving and also scared that if even you care too try to change anything I believe anyone might just puff disapeared too much money and there's generations involved on this, I have tried and got awesome stories about the results I got even through the legal courts and stuff, they will find a way to shut you up, like I say thats someones living and $$$$$, and that's what we know what about what we miss!!!! welcome to the real world.


I do not believe any prison, jail, detention facility, correctional care facility, or correctional center will EVER have a problem keeping beds occupied. This is NOT due to CCA lobbyist writing harsher laws for politicians to pass but because dirt bags want to murder, rape, steal, forge, mug, and assault law abiding citizens. The attached film talked of the large amount of inmates held on non-violent crimes. Non violent yet still illegal. Who should pay for this? The one who was violated or the person who feels he is entitled to all he wants even if it means committing a crime.
Laws are not passed in a vacuum, believe it or not. If you are so outraged as to the number of thugs are locked away then get involved and educate yourself and make a difference. (when I say thug I mean anyone who commits a crime against another).


The uneducated fool with the "laws are not passed in a vacuum" statement. It is blatantly obvious that you have never made a single mistake in your entire life, nor has anyone in your family. Even more obvious that you have never dealt with a private prison. You missed the entire point of the article. Go do some research, maybe read a book or just re-read the article. THEN HUMBLE YOURSELF.

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