"We'll pay cash for your prisons today!" E-mail
Written by APB Staff   

If you’re a state official looking to plug up one of those multi-billion dollar state budget holes you may want to talk to the folks in the for-profit prison industry.

The Corrections Corporation of America is offering states tons of cash. All state officials have to do is close their prisons and sign on the dotted line.

CCA, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a solution for "challenging corrections budgets."

So what’s in it for CCA?

The company is asking for a 20-year management contract. They also want assurances that their  prisons would remain at least 90 percent full regardless of crime rates. This is the kind of deal politicians dream about. Not only to they get to cover their tracks in terms of which hole the state’s money disappeared into, they also get to play the “tough on crime” candidate during elections.

CCA is now a giant on Wall Street. Share holders have seen revenues increase by 500 percent since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the '80s and '90s as the result of the war on drugs by contracting with state governments to build or manage new prisons to house an influx of minor drug offenders.

But as drug abuse has changed in rates and nature, CCA has turned most of its lobbying power to  advocate for locking up undocumented immigrants.

So what is a state prison system worth? According to CCA it’s an even $250 million.

By getting the prisons at bargain prices and using political influence and lobbyists to advocate longer sentences and “tougher” crime laws, CCA could do very well in terms of keeping profits high for its shareholders.

"We believe this comes at a timely and helpful juncture and hope you will share our belief in the benefits of the purchase-and-manage model," reads the letter from Harley Lappin, CCA's chief corrections officer, who was a former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The prison sale for quick cash plan is sure to attract those who rode into office on promises of balanced budgets and reductions in government spending. Whether or not tax payers will be paying more or less for private prisons instead of state run prisons remains to be seen.

Research across numerous states has shown that the promised savings from private prisons don’t materialize as promised.

"It's a real gamble for states to say, 'Gee, we're going to save a lot of money this way,'" Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, which did several studies analyzing Ohio's sale of a state prison to Corrections Corporation of America, told reporters with the Huffington Post.

"The idea that we should do this because we need money on a one-time basis seems like awfully short-term thinking. If we want to talk about what our needs are for the budget, and what our needs are for housing prisoners, let's look at those on a long-term basis and see what the best decisions are."

Make no mistake about it- the same companies trying to privatize American corrections are working on privatizing law enforcement entirely. See the April issue for more.

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