Dirty Thirty
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The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About 30 Years of Corrections Corporation of America

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Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s oldest and largest for-profit private prison corporation, is commemorating its 30th anniversary throughout 2013 with a series of birthday celebrations at its facilities around the country.

Over the last 30 years, CCA has benefited from the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. Since the company’s founding in 1983, the incarcerated population has risen by more than 500 percent to more than 2.2 million people. Meanwhile, the number of people held in immigration detention centers has exploded from an average daily population of 131 people to over 32,000 people on any given day.

CCA has made profits from, and at times contributed to, the expansion of tough-on-crime and anti-immigrant policies that have driven prison expansion. Now a multi-billion dollar corporation CCA manages more than 65 correctional and detention facilities with a capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The company’s revenue in 2012 exceeded more than $1.7 billion.
 
While the company has become a multi-billion dollar corporation, it has also become exceedingly controversial, with a record of prisoner abuse, poor pay and benefits to employees, scandals, escapes, riots, and lawsuits marking its history. Faith denominations, civil rights groups, criminal justice reform organizations, and immigrant rights advocates have repeatedly argued that adding the profit motive to the prison and immigrant detention systems provides perverse incentives to keep incarceration rates high.
 
To mark the company’s milestone anniversary, Grassroots Leadership and the Public Safety and Justice Campaign have sought to highlight why there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of for-profit incarceration. This report highlights just some of the shameful incidents that litter CCA’s history.
 
As well as unearthing notable scandals and violations that have taken place over the company’s last three decades, this report charts several other key areas in which CCA has left a dubious legacy. From controversial economic and political ties to operational cost-cutting and depressing labor practices, CCA’s drastic efforts to maximize profits only serve to demonstrate the fundamental reasons why the for-profit prison industry is at odds with the goals of reducing incarceration rates and raising correctional standards.
 
This report highlights only 30 incidents in the company’s history, but could have been much more expansive. We hope it lends a critical eye to the role of for-profit prison firms in criminal justice and immigration policies, and serves as a starting point for community members and organizations seeking to learn about the for-profit private prison industry.