The Painful Price of Private Prisons
Political spending inoculates CoreCivic from accountability
This post is a slight departure from my normal posts about consumer finance and corporate accountability.
A recent story out of Tennessee focused on private prison provider CoreCivic and the company’s political spending. More specifically, Ian Round in the Daily Memphian explores conditions at CoreCivic facilities and a possible connection between a lack of accountability and CoreCivic’s heavy political investments.
In a sense, then, this IS about corporate accountability.
While the federal government and a number of state and local governments have backed away from private prison deals in recent years, CoreCivic continues to do robust business in Tennessee.
As Round notes:
About 31% of Tennessee’s inmates were in CoreCivic facilities in 2020, according to the Sentencing Project. Only three states (Hawaii, Montana and New Mexico) have higher percentages of their inmates in private prisons.
Additionally, state lawmakers recently passed new sentencing laws which will mean more people sent to prison - potentially a huge benefit to a private contractor like CoreCivic.
Round points out that CoreCivic is among the top political donors in the state, giving significantly to incumbent Gov. Bill Lee and to key leadership in the legislature.
CoreCivic gave $107,490 to Tennessee politicians and PACs from July to September, a campaign finance report filed Oct. 5 shows. In the past year, the company has spent $209,990 on lobbying.
The state pays CoreCivic roughly $180 million annually - and may well beging spending even more - in spite of a poor record of performance by CoreCivic.
Its facilities have a murder rate four times higher than state-run facilities, a 2019 report showed. An audit by the state comptroller found CoreCivic maintains unreliable data and has destroyed public records.
While the state has docked CoreCivic in recent years for failure to perform up to contract standards, there has been no indication that Tennessee has any plans to cut ties with the company.
READ MORE from Round on the CoreCivic story.
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