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PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann - letter to editor about CCA published

Tennessean, Nov. 8, 2007.
PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann - letter to editor about CCA published - Tennessean 2007

Thursday, 11/08/07

Private prisons don’t save the state money

To the Editor:

On Oct. 31, John Ferguson, CEO of Corrections Corp. of America, wrote that his private prison company saves the state money despite charging higher rates than those paid to county jails that house state prisoners.

Most studies that have been conducted on private prison costs have found uncertain or minimal savings — including a study by the Tennessee Legislative Fiscal Review Committee that compared expenses at two state prisons, and the CCA-run South Central Correctional Center.

Regardless, I don’t doubt Ferguson’s statement that CCA has lower per-diem rates than state prisons. But he didn’t explain why, so I will.

CCA doesn’t operate any maximum-security prisons in Tennessee, does not house death-row prisoners and doesn’t operate women’s facilities.

All of those prison populations have much higher incarceration costs that CCA doesn’t have to pay.

The state must also cover all medical costs for prisoners. CCA’s medical expenses are capped at a certain amount ($5,000 the last time I checked); after that, the state has to pick up the tab.

Further, CCA has cherry-picked prisoners at South Central, such as transferring prisoners who are HIV-positive — and more expensive to house — to state facilities.

So, yes, CCA might have lower per-diem costs than state prisons, but only if you compare public apples with privately-managed oranges.

Alex Friedmann, Antioch 3701



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