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Prison Corporations are ‘Making a Killing’

by Jon Melegrito  |  May 04, 2011

America’s largest private prisons, like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of governors, state legislators and judges. In exchange, the funders have received support for building more for-profit facilities, according to a report released today by AFSCME. The report, “Making a Killing: How Prison Corporations are Profiting from Campaign Contributions and Putting Taxpayers at Risk,” tracks the flow of money from private companies to public officials, and details some of the worst cases of violence and death in the nation’s privately-operated jails.

The in-depth look at the private prison industry’s 25 years in business describes the private prison model as “a hazard for local communities,” with “higher levels of violence, rape, escapes, recidivism and inmate and staff deaths” compared to public facilities. “In the interest of public safety and crime-reduction, it is imperative that states abandon for-profit prison companies and rely on public prisons to house the country’s inmates,” the report concludes.

Glen Middleton, chair of AFSCME Corrections United and also an International vice president, calls the companies’ strategy of “pay-to-play” a serious threat to public safety. “CCA, The GEO Group, Inc. and the Management & Training Corporation are aggressively looking for ways to fill more jail cells,” he says. “That’s the only way these for-profit companies will continue to thrive.”

“Corrections is a very dangerous job,” notes Marty Hathaway, a 32-year veteran at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville and a member of Local 2985 (Iowa Council 61). “But these corporations are not concerned about public safety. They want to cut corners to make a dollar. I work for the citizens of Iowa, not for a private company. Only professionals like me can be relied on to protect the public.”

Citing states such as Ohio and Florida “where our members are battling governors who ignore real solutions and instead focus on failed privatization schemes to reward campaign contributors,” AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee asserts that AFSCME “will not let the corporate CEOs behind these efforts succeed in destroying institutions that provide good jobs and help keep our communities secure.”

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