Attention states with a corrections budget crunch: the Corrections Corporation of America is here to help. The Huffington Post reports that the for-profit prisons giant sent letters to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons in exchange for a 20-year management contract and the guarantee that the facilities would be at least 90 percent full.
The letter came from Harley Lappin, the former head of the federal Bureau of Prisons who resigned last spring following a drunk driving incident. Lappin wrote that they believed the offer comes at a “timely and helpful juncture and hope you will share our belief in the benefits of the purchase-and-manage model.”
The Corrections Corporation of America has been billing the deals as cost-saving measures, but as HuffPost reports, the consequences of such deals include placing the state in a poor bargaining position:
Prison management contracts can be canceled or re-bid frequently, with the state still retaining ownership of the prison as an asset. But if a private company owns the prison, the state would have fewer options if it wanted to cut ties. Any alternatives for housing prisoners would likely cost more, such as building a new prison from scratch or finding another company to take in its inmates.
Politicians who have opposed privatization measures have been suffering the political consequences. In Florida, where the state senate is voting at 2 p.m. Tuesday on a bill which would create the largest private prison population, state Senator Mike Fasano (R) was stripped of his position as chair of the budget subcommittee overseeing prisons by Senate President Mike Haridopolos after making anti-prison privatization remarks.
“I guess the bottom line is he didn’t like me opposing something he was pushing, but I always thought that was the process,” Fasano told TPM after he lost his position earlier this month. “I’ve been in the legislature for 18 years and I always have stood up for my conscience, and if it means me having to lose my chairmanship, I wear that as a badge of honor.”
In addition to the potential loss of state jobs, Fasano said that another issues raised by the privatization of prisons is that companies can “cherry pick” only the prisons which are less costly (meaning they have younger, healthier or less-violent inmates).
“We’re not talking one or two prisons, we’re talking 27. If all of the sudden one of those companies had to turn over one of those prisons to us, it’d be an administrative nightmare,” Fasano said.