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News > World

Taxpayer Money Used to Promote Private Prisons: Report

  • Inmates at the state prison in San Quentin, California, United States.

    Inmates at the state prison in San Quentin, California, United States. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 October 2016

A new report called for reforms to prevent private prison companies from using taxpayer money to grow their businesses.

Private prison companies in the United States, whose revenue comes in the form of government contracts and public money, are spending millions to lobby politicians and expand the role of private prisons, claims a new report from In the Public Interest published Wednesday.

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According to the report entitled “Buying Influence,” private prison companies seek to influence public policy with respect to prisons via three avenues: campaign contributions, lobbying, and influence through professional corrections associations.

“Whether advocating for legislation that benefits their business models, making campaign contributions to candidates, or seeking new contracts, private prison companies’ government-relations arms aim to expand the role the companies play in America’s criminal justice system,” reads the report.

The report is the latest from In the Public Interest’s Programs Not Profits campaign, which seeks to replace the use of private prisons in the U.S.

In the view of the report's authors, the profit-seeking motive of private prisons “create environments that are counterproductive to rehabilitation.”

“Corrections companies have a track record of human rights abuses. In an effort to maximize profits, private prison companies and the companies that provide other corrections services like health care and food cut corners, creating environments that are more violent and counterproductive to rehabilitation,” claims In the Public Interest in its report.

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The report further claims that, by virtue of the fact that private prison companies receive their income from government contracts, “taxpayers in effect pay for these companies to grow their businesses.”

In the 2014 election cycle, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — the two largest private prison companies in the U.S. — spent at least $5.9 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. That same cycle, 14 out of 17 of politicians supported by either company won their races. 

Meanwhile, in 2015, “CCA hired 102 lobbyists in 25 states and GEO Group hired 79 lobbyists in 15 states,” winning them even greater influence among decision makers.

The report calls for government to prohibit contractors from making campaign contributions; public disclosure of contracts, both those won and lost; and public oversight of prison companies involvement with corrections associations.

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