Private for-profit prison threatens to close unless government finds them more prisoners

Prison wire

The danger of private prison systems is that they do not make a profit unless there is a steady supply of criminals. If there is not a steady supply of criminals, then, pressures mount to bring in more.

The company that has operated a private prison in Estancia [New Mexico] for nearly three decades has announced it will close the Torrance County Detention Facility and lay off more than 200 employees unless it can find 300 state or federal inmates to fill empty beds within the next 60 days, according to a statement issued Tuesday by county officials.

That company would be CoreCivic, the new, not-as-tainted name for the private prison company you and the nation’s investigative press both knew as Corrections Corporation of America. No guesses allowed on why they changed their name. Apparently the company needs to fill at least 700 beds to break even, and they don’t currently have that because of reasons. Presuming the county isn’t going to just go out and start arresting people until the quota is filled, it means the company is scrambling to rent—sorry, “house”—prisoners from public state and federal facilities. Otherwise, the closure of the no-longer-profitable prison will be causing multiple problems for the county that now relies on it.

[County Manager Belinda Garland] said the prison’s imminent closure will affect the county in a number of ways, not the least of which is that the county, which does not have its own jail, will have to find another place to house the 40 to 75 inmates it sends there each month.

CCA, or rather CoreCivic, has been having a generally bad time of late, with lawsuits and investigative reports on prisoner treatment and outbreaks of disease(!) and the 2016 decision by not-Trump to phase out use of private prisons as a result of all those other things. They got a bit of wind in their sails from the Trump election, when investors eagerly anticipated the new administration embarking on sweeping deportation raids that would fully stock America’s for-profit prisons with potentially millions of new peaceful-but-profitable prisoners. But so far it hasn’t been panning out for the company as much as those cretinous investors supposed.

Again, a thought: So, when the nation’s long-term crime rate goes down or the nation’s enforcement priorities change, what happens to private companies that rely on a stream of criminals to bring their shareholders ample returns?

Are we pressured to invent new crimes, or to step up punishments for existing crimes—say, by launching a new war on “marijuana” out of nowhere, despite widespread public opposition to such moves?

Are we pressured to close still more of the state and federal prisons, in order to free up prisoners for the shareholder-benefiting versions? Does the nation decide that regardless of their obvious successes, programs to steer nonviolent offenders away from prison and towards resources for psychological help or drug treatment programs are just taking too big a bite out of corporate profits, and demand harder-line approaches?

Oh, right. We already know the answer to that. Never mind.

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