Contracts between local governments and for-profit private prison complexes often include provisions for “lockup quotas” and “low crime taxes,” according to a new report from In The Public Interest (ITPI).
The report indicates that 62 percent of the private prison contracts the group studied require States to keep 80 percent to 100 percent of prison beds occupied. If the number of beds occupied falls below the quota, taxpayers pay the difference.
In 2012, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) offered to buy and operate a number of States’ prison in exchange for a 20-year contract, which would include a 90 percent occupancy rate guarantee for the entire term. No States took CCA up on its offer, but there are already a number of private prisons throughout the Nation with lockup quotas.
The reports states: “These contract clauses incentivize keeping prison beds filled, which runs counter to many states’ public policy goals of reducing the prison population and increasing efforts for inmate rehabilitation. When policymakers received the 2012 CCA letter, some worried the terms of CCA’s offer would encourage criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the occupancy rates required by a contract. Policy decisions should be based on creating and maintaining a just criminal justice system that protects the public interest, not ensuring corporate profits.”
The Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ohio, a CCA prison, has a 90 percent lockup quota that ITPI contends led to “cutting corners on safety, including overcrowding, areas without secure doors, and an increase in crime both inside the prison and the surrounding community.”
And when Colorado prisons failed to meet lockup quotas due to dropping crime rates, the State was forced to pay CCA $2 million in taxpayer money.
“By contractually requiring states to guarantee payment for a large percentage of prison beds, the prison companies are able to protect themselves against fluctuations in the prison population. These provisions guarantee prison companies a consistent and regular revenue stream, insulating them from ordinary business risks,” the report says. “The financial risks are borne by the public, while the private corporations are guaranteed profits from taxpayer dollars.”
View the full report here.