In 1984 a newly formed company by the name of Corrections Corporation of America acquired the United States’ very first full corrections facility contract for the state of Tennessee. This would mark the first time in American history that a private for-profit corporation would take control of caring for the nation’s misguided and incarcerated. This new model for the country’s prison system over the next 28 years would expand its reach and power considerably taking over half of the country’s prison institutions and in turn lead to a six-fold increase of prisons and inmates in the United States of America. If the privatization and corporate takeover of the prison system in the United States continues and the corporate philosophy in America maintains its notion of perpetual profits and growth as the only model for corporate success, then there will be an inevitable increase in the number of correctional facilities and unwarranted incarcerations in America.
The privatization and corporate takeover of the United States prison system continues to grow each year with no end in sight. This relatively recent development has increased dramatically over the past 28 years since the advent of correctional facility contracts being awarded to private corporations. The first company to be awarded a contract was Corrections Corporation of America also known as CCA. Companies like CCA have continued to have considerable growth and profits since their inception and in particular over the past ten years. The past decade is important when looking at the growth and projecting the futures of companies like CCA and it’s rival the Geo Group, because most of American industry over the past ten years has struggled to keep afloat through the recession let alone having the luxury of continual growth. The global recession has not negatively effected these companies in the least. In 2003 we can see CCA was trading at around $6.00 per share and it currently sells for roughly $34.00 per share (Nasdaq). Both companies reported their total revenue for 2011 at around 1.7 billion dollars further proving that private corrections industry is thriving. With their success, these companies have begun to own and operate their own facilities as well, with CCA now owning and operating 66 and the Geo Group owning 65 of their own facilities in addition to still holding contracts with federal and state owned prisons. With powerful lobbying and aggressive growth tactics these private corrections companies will continue to expand their reach across the United States in the years to come.
The corporate philosophy in America maintains its notion of perpetual profits and growth as the only model for corporate success. This current model perpetuates an aggressive, survival of the fittest, take no prisoners attitude, where the success of the corporation is paramount, no matter whether its practices are ethical or not. With this current framework there is an emphasis on the need for perpetual profit and the goal of benefitting society as a whole becomes secondary to that of the corporation. “Unfortunately, we live in a world of capitalists who thrive on the great Myth of Perpetual Growth, endless growth, ad infinitum, forever, till the end of time”. We can see this business philosophy everyday at department stores that are selling the next new product. We see it every year at Black Friday when companies try to outdo their previous year’s successes and if they are met with failure there is an immediate fear which grows across the economy. We as a nation ran by corporate capitalism somehow assume that we can continually grow forever, even though we live in a world of limited resources and consumers. This same problem exists not only in the local department stores but it now exists in our government as well. This corporate philosophy exists in all areas public and private and can be seen in the public statements of companies like CCA that tout their constant construction of new facilities and the creation of beds for more inmates. This notion of perpetual growth has become like a cancer which continues to effect all facets of society.
Given the current situation surrounding the privatization of the U.S. prison system, we can see there being an inevitable increase in the number of correctional facilities and unwarranted incarcerations in America. At the time the first contract was awarded to CCA, in 1984 there were 903 state-run correctional facilities in the United States incarcerating a total of 395,309 inmates. Since then, there has been a continuous growth of the number of inmates, correctional facilities and corporate controlled prisons in the United States. In 2005 the number of inmates had grown to 1,430,208 and the number of prisons had doubled to 1,821 facilities. From 2005 until 2010 the number of inmates climbed to a staggering 2,266,832 nearly doubling the number of inmates in a five year period (U.S. Census). This growth will continue unchecked as long as these companies continue to exercise their influence upon state and federal legislation in this country. In addition to the unprecedented increase in prisons and inmates we have also seen an increase in unwarranted arrests and incarcerations in the United States over the past few years. The most notable of cases has been in New York city that has claimed the title as the safest city in America. They were able to claim this due to the increase of arrests throughout the city over the past decade. What has recently come into the public view is that the New York city police departments had created an arrest quota with which their officers had to abide by otherwise they risked their jobs due to non-compliance. This was exposed by Bronx 42nd precinct officer Craig Mathews when he leaked the story to the Village Voice about having to arrest perfectly innocent individuals so as not to lose his job (NYTimes). He leaked the story after being placed in a mental health facility against his will for weeks at the hands of his peers. Since this story has come out there has been a plethora of stories like it across the nation concerning police departments arresting more people due to rigid arrest quotas. Both of these developments; the privatization of the prison system and the increase of arrests of U.S. citizens guilty or otherwise gives us insight into the future of the corrections system of the United States.
There are some who argue that there is no direct relationship between the privatization of the prison system and the growth that we have seen within the industry over the past few years. There is of course the possibility that the growth is due to an increase of population and other social factors which have led to an increase in criminal activity. In that case we can conclude that companies like CCA and the Geo Group are merely providing the United States with a much needed service. Unfortunately, if this logic was true we would see the same sort of increases in other parts of the world which share population concerns, poverty and social tensions. As it were this logic does not follow in other countries around the world and in fact the United States now leads the pack by incarcerating more citizens than any other country in the world. China trails behind us in how many of its citizens it imprisons, but has been the world’s leader for highest population and has some of the world’s most impoverished people as well. It is clear that the United States as the leading incarcerator of the world and the leader in privatized corrections that there must be something else other than population and societal tensions at work here. The undeniable correlation between the timeframe of the sudden increases in size of the United States prison system and it’s inmates as well as the creation of the private corrections companies and their government contracts leads us to believe that they must be inextricably linked. It is clear by following the evidence that if the privatization and corporate takeover of the prison system in the United States continues and the corporate philosophy in America maintains its notion of perpetual profits and growth as the only model for corporate success, then there will be an inevitable increase in the number of correctional facilities and unwarranted incarcerations in America.
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