Something most people aren’t aware of is that for-profit private corporations now have contracts to manage over 120 prison facilities in the United States. They are paid by person per bed day. Most of them even have contracts with the government to pay for any bed days that are not used. For instance, the state of Virginia had a contract that guaranteed payment for a 95% occupancy rate.
These are private corporations that have boards of directors and stock holders. The higher the profit margin is, the more attractive the stock is. (Think Apple or Microsoft) A profit margin is generated simply by income minus expenses. Hello? What would that tell you about a company that makes it’s living from the incarceration of inmates? They will provide services in the least expense way possible, in order to increase their profit margin and raise the stock price.
Two of the largest of these corporations are: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group. CCA generates $1.7 billion in annual revenue, and from that captures $300 million in profit. The CEO of CCA is Damon Hininger and his annual salary is $3.6 million. He also owns thousands of shares of the stock.
From Salary.com: As President and Chief Executive Officer at CORRECTIONS CORP AMER, Damon T. Hininger made $3,651,584 in total compensation. Of this total $811,231 was received as a salary, $822,750 was received as a bonus, $0 was received in stock options, $1,946,477 was awarded as stock and $71,126 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2014 fiscal year.The GEO Group has both domestic and international prisons and they have annual revenues of $1.5 Billion and profit of $117 million per year. Mr. George C. Zooley, Chairman of the Board, earned $6,331,117 in 2015. Really? Over six million dollars in one year?
I am flabbergasted to see these numbers while so many inmates are incarcerated in “segregated” 23 hour a day lock down cells. How much per day is spent on them when they can’t do anything 23 hours per day? There are no educational opportunities and no activities. Some of them are even fed baloney sandwiches or a bland lump, called nutraloaf. It does meet national guidelines for nutrition, but is a tasteless block of food. This is served to them day after day as a form of punishment. This does not even address or include the overcrowding in general population, the poor medical care rendered to inmates, or any other number of less than adequate provisions in prisons across the country.
So, again I ask … why would these corporations want to release any inmate or provide rehabilitation that would reduce the recidivism rate of between 60 and 70 percent across the nation? They wouldn’t, because the stock holders would revolt and the corporations’ executive salaries would be in jeopardy.
For-profit prison corporations came into being because the government thought private corporations could run prisons at a lower cost than the government. According to the ACCLU of Texas, for-profit facilities not only sometimes cost more, but are more dangerous and have worse conditions than state run facilities. They are found to have 50% more inmate to staff assaults and 2/3 more inmate on inmate assaults. What is really happening is that in order to maximize profits, inmates are suffering.
What is the solution? Much like the healthcare industry, which has moved towards pay for performance, prison industries should be paid for results. If a prison’s recidivism rate is lowered, they should receive a bonus that would relate to their performance. This way, everyone would win. The corporations would make money, the inmates would get the kind of facility that promotes release and a chance to make a life without returning to prison, and taxpayers would save millions.
In 2015, Nicholas Turner, President of the Vera Institute of Justice and Jeremy Travis, President pf John Jay College of Criminal Justice, toured prisons in Germany. There the inmates wear their own clothes, have keys to their own cells, have their own bathrooms, have access to communal kitchens and have educational programs which give them a chance to learn skills and trades they can use to get jobs upon release. Unheard of right? But guess what? Treating prisoners like people instead of animals works. Germany’s recidivism rate is about 15%.
What can we learn from this? In America, which has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, we treat inmates like animals and the result is they act like animals. In Germany and other parts of Europe, criminals are treated like human beings and given chances to change their way of life, and it is successful!
For some, criminals should be treated like criminals and not have any sort of life. If all you want is retribution and punishment, then that is the way prisoners should be treated. It also costs, in terms of monetary value, anywhere from $29,000 to $75, 000 per inmate per year, never mind the unmeasurable costs to the inmates and their families. If you want to really change the world and allow people the opportunity to become productive citizens, you have to modify the way they are treated in prison, so that they can become productive members of society. Does that take away what they may have done in the past? No it doesn’t, but it goes along way for them being able to make amends, add value to society, take care of their children and families, and reduce the number of inmates taxpayers have to pay for to keep incarcerated.
A registered nurse and former medical administrator, has now turned her inspiration to writing and advocacy. Her most recent published book, Waiting on the Outside; sharing her journey being a mother to her son who is in prison. Sharron also maintains a blog and resource page providing information and related news for friends and family of the incarcerated.
To read more about Sharron and her recently published book of being a mother to her son in prison, CLICK HERE.