A private prison corporation just revealed where the industry is headed

CoreCivic told investors which states it’s marketing to and doubled down on its plans to transform into a real estate company.


The $5 billion-dollar private prison industry continues to boom during the Trump administration.

We all know about its role in helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separate families and lock up asylum seekers. But what else are the two big corporations CoreCivic and GEO Group up to?

Luckily, CoreCivic, which used to be Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), released its latest financial results to shareholders last week. There were some interesting, and quite telling, reveals.

They are actively marketing their now-empty prison facilities to multiple states that have “significant prison infrastructure needs,” including Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.

They anticipate a new deal with Puerto Rico to be awarded to them “at any time.”

As expected, they are banking on “emerging needs” from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service, which locks up both federal and immigration offenders.

They bragged about their December 2018 acquisition of Recovery Monitoring Solutions Corp., a company that provides electronic monitoring and case management services to municipal, county, and state governments in Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Minnesota.

They are vying for Alabama’s upcoming three-prison deal, hoping to convince Gov. Kay Ivey to sign a “public-private partnership.”

Confused? What’s a public-private partnership have to do with building prisons?

Well, both CoreCivic and GEO Group want to be landlords. Literally. In the update to investors, CEO Damon Hininger describes CoreCivic as a “diversified real estate investment trust specializing in delivering government real estate solutions to serve the public good.”

This is because, as real estate investment trusts (REITs), they avoid tens of millions of dollars a year in taxes. In recent years, both corporations have been pushing their own private financing (“public-private partnerships”) to cities and states like Kansas who want to keep taxes low (mostly for the wealthy and corporations) but also build new infrastructure.

Finally, they boasted about their overall success: “Over the past five years, we have maintained an average contract retention rate of 95% at our own facilities.”

That’s not good for those of us who think the private prison industry shouldn’t exist. But what they didn’t mention is that those fighting to get profit out of criminal justice and immigration are as loud as ever.

Bills to ban private prisons have been introduced in California, Georgia, and Minnesota.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is calling on public pensions to divest.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants congressional hearings with executives from banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase to question them about their role in financing private prisons.

And Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders weighed in this week with a video on private prison industry campaign contributions.


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Jeremy Mohler is a writer and communications strategist for In the Public Interest, a nonprofit that studies public goods and services. He’d love to hear from you: jmohler@inthepublicinterest.org