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prison - industrial complex

Punishment for Sale: Big Business, Private Prisons and the Incarceration Binge by Donna Selman and Paul Leighton

[publisher: Rowman and Littlefield ~ Amazon ~ more info from PaulsJusiceBlog]

Privatization as one of the major trends that continues to exert an influence on the criminal justice enterprise. Privatization refers to the practice of outsourcing government functions and services to private, for-profit business under a contract with the government. Punishment and incarceration may seem like odd functions to privatize, but private prisons are a multi-billion dollar a year business and the two largest firms – Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group – are multinational businesses that are traded on Wall Street. 

In a recent groundbreaking examination of prison privatization, criminologists Donna Selman and Paul Leighton argue in Punishment for Sale (2010) that understanding the nature of the contemporary criminal justice system requires understanding privatization, including the business model and financial dynamics of these firms. It’s not just a multi-billion dollar business, but CCA has a billion dollar credit line with various powerful Wall Street investment banks. They – and all the shareholders – ensure that the private prison firms are managing the business risk factors that they must disclose in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Risk factors include not getting enough inmates from government to be profitable, sentencing reform (like the repeal of certain mandatory minimum sentences), steps toward the legalization of drugs, and immigration reform. While these are controversial topics, the debate over justice policy needs to be on the merits of reform not based on the financial interests of wealthy shareholders and Wall Street.

In the space below is a presentation that provides an overview of the problems with private prisons. There is also an earlier version of this I presented at the 2011 International Criminology Congress available from my blog (each presentation can be downloaded in .pdf or .pptx format). I also have presentations about Why Private Prison's Don't Save Money and Prison Privatization in US and Japan (2014 presentation comparing US privatization with Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center - a Japanese high-tech, public-private partnership).  


Problems With Private Prisons (2013) by Dr Paul Leighton


Private Prison Resources

Links to sites and reports 

The CCA-PZN Story: The Real Estate investment Trust spin-off, the near bankruptcy, junk bonds, and the restructuring bid from Pacific Life Insurance.

Why Private Prisons Don't Save Money: CEO pay, shareholder lawsuits, corporate debt refinancing and more. 

Conflict of Interest: Charles Thomas - on the Board of Trustees for Prison Realty, founder of the Private Prison Institute at the University of Florida, holder of a government post involving the regulation of private prisons and author of research claiming a lower recidivism rate for private prisons. 

Fear, Race & the Criminal Justice Industrial Complex

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Mopping the Floor While the Tub Overflows: Paul's article on the problem of cutting crime prevention $ to fund prison expansion

Companion website for The Rich Get Richer & the Poor Get Prison

The Commercialization of Justice. This article, written by Marlyce Nuzum (and originally appearing in the Critical Criminologist) describes the military-industrial complex and the emergence of a criminal justice- industrial complex. She surveys the range of actors and tries to make a minimum estimate of its size. 

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