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Buying Access: How Corporations Influence Decision Makers at Corrections Conferences, Trainings, and Meetings

Click here for full report.

Private corrections companies, which contract with corrections departments and facilities to oversee and provide services to incarcerated people, make up a multibillion-dollar industry. Every year, they devote resources to building influence with decision makers in order to find and capitalize on new business opportunities. One key avenue of influence is through professional corrections associations, which are non-profit organizations that support corrections officials, including wardens, administrators, state Department of Corrections staff, sheriffs, and others through events, trainings, and public policy advocacy.

This report first details how companies spend millions of dollars sponsoring conferences, paying vendor fees, and providing other funding to gain access to the professional corrections associations. This report then shows how corrections companies leverage this access in ways that can influence decision makers and benefit the companies’ bottom lines.

Considering corrections companies’ track records of providing low-quality services that harm prisoners, communities, and taxpayers, the influence they exert through professional corrections associations is cause for concern.

The research in this report is based on limited information that professional corrections associations make publicly available. Consequently, the report’s findings constitute only a portion of the total contributions made by companies and the subsequent opportunities they receive to influence decision makers.

Private companies make contributions to professional corrections associations. In 2014, sponsors, vendors, corporate partners, and other non-individual entities contributed at least $3 million to five of the largest professional corrections associations, including the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, the Corrections Technology Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

In return, corrections contractors are able to build relationships with and influence decision makers in key ways:

  • Corrections companies send executives and staff to professional corrections association conferences to meet decision makers. Many companies receive lists of attendees, allowing the corporate staff to target certain corrections officials.
  • Corrections companies lead trainings and workshops at conferences. Often times, companies will directly market goods and services.
  • Corrections companies host conference events where their executives and marketing staff meet with and give speeches to corrections officials.
  • Corrections companies market their products and services at conference vendor booths to identify potential government customers and generate leads.
  • Corrections companies advertise on conference materials, such as the program books, hotel room key cards, tote bags, and take-home mugs. This marketing encourages officials to consider the companies’ products and services when making purchasing and outsourcing decisions.