States decline offer from private prison corporation

by Melanie Wilmoth Navarro

Earlier this year, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sent letters to 48 states offering to buy their public prisons.

According to CCA’s letter, allowing the corporation to purchase and operate corrections facilities would help states “manage challenging corrections budgets” and generate millions in savings.  That may sound like a good idea to some states, but here’s the catch: States would have to sign a 20-year contract with CCA and keep correctional facilities at a 90% occupancy rate or higher.

Last month, I pointed out several serious concerns with CCA’s proposition. In addition, a report by the ACLU of Ohio revealed false advertising in CCA’s letter:

“Much of CCA’s letter was devoted to touting its recent purchase of Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, Ohio. In 2012, the Lake Erie facility became the first publicly owned prison in the nation sold to a private prison company. While this is certainly a dubious distinction, CCA took some liberties with the facts.

Most notably was CCA’s assertion that it would save states money, which has been refuted repeatedly. While CCA claims it will save Ohioans $3 million per year, a recent report analyzing the state’s contract shows that taxpayers will actually lose money over the next 20 years. Of course, this is not earth-shattering news, as other fiscal analyses in Ohio and Arizona have produced similar results.”

Thankfully, several states have already declined CCA’s offer. Although the states refused to say why, California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee all rejected the proposition. According to Greg Bluestein with the Associated Press, this may be “a sign that privatizing prisons might not be as popular as it once was.”

Let’s hope that Bluestein is right and that more states will reject CCA’s offer.