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Cutting Corners in America’s Criminal Justice System

Today, private corrections companies hold contracts to operate hundreds of prisons, jails, and detention centers. Corrections companies also hold contracts to provide services, such as healthcare and meal preparation, to private and public correctional facilities. Often times, companies win these contracts by claiming that they will manage the service in ways that are more “efficient” than the government. Some companies also claim that they can reduce the costs to taxpayers. 

Cutting Corners in America’s Criminal Justice System shows that, in an effort to provide services with fewer resources while also maximizing profits, companies often cut corners, harming prisoners, employees, communities, and taxpayers.


The stories are striking, and at times, tragic:

  • At Idaho Correctional Center prison, instead of hiring correctional officers, Corrections Corporation of America purposely relinquished control of the facility to prison gangs, according to a lawsuit filed by prisoners.
  • In Minnesota, from 1998 to 2013, 30 prisoners either died or suffered severe injuries after Corizon, the health care company for the state’s prisons, denied or delayed needed medical care. 
  • In Michigan, Aramark, the company that cooked meals for the state’s prisons, reduced its labor costs by hiring low-skilled employees at low wages who couriered contraband, engaged in intimate relations with prisoners, hired prisoners to assault others, and acted in other ways counter to prisoner safety and rehabilitation.

Cutting Corners in America’s Criminal Justice System discusses these case studies and others to illustrate how corrections companies cut corners in ways that result in the provision of low-quality services and ultimately harm the overall public good.

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This brief was released as part of Programs Not Profits, a multi-year campaign that promotes replacing private profits that hurt incarcerated people, correctional officers, and taxpayers, with publicly funded and managed programs that provide job training, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment. See more about the campaign here.

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