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Private Prisons Place Profits, Corporate Image Before Rehabilitation

Prison Legal News, June 6, 2018.

 

 

The below editorial is in response to this opinion piece by CoreCivic executive Joe Pryor, published by The Chattanoogan:

http://www.chattanoogan.com/2018/6/5/369934/Working-Together-To-Reduce-Recidivism.aspx

 

Private Prisons Place Profits, Corporate Image Before Rehabilitation

Alex Friedmann

June 5, 2018

In a recent opinion piece, Joe Pryor, the senior director for reentry services at CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm), cited high recidivism rates for former prisoners and lauded CoreCivic’s efforts to reduce those rates through rehabilitative and reentry programs.

            “[W]e have made reducing recidivism a central part of our company’s mission,” he wrote.

            First, to be clear, Mr. Pryor works for CoreCivic; he is paid to say good things about his employer. That’s part of his job, for which he is well compensated. While Mr. Pryor may strongly believe in what CoreCivic does with respect to rehabilitative and reentry programs, the company does not provide those services for free or out of the goodness of its corporate heart.

            It does so to generate profit – which is why CoreCivic has in recent years purchased a number of community corrections and reentry facilities, including Avalon, CAI and Correctional Management, Inc., which generate substantial revenue through lucrative government contracts.

            A quick look at the company’s SEC filings bears this out.

            Yes, recidivism rates are entirely too high, and yes, more needs to be done to help released prisoners with reentry programs and services to lessen the chance they will reoffend following their release.

            This is particularly true with respect to private prisons such as those operated by CoreCivic.

            For example, a 2013 Minnesota study determined “that offenders who had been incarcerated in a private prison had a greater hazard of recidivism in all 20 models, and the recidivism risk was significantly greater in eight of the models.” And a 2008 study of Oklahoma prisoners in public and private prisons found “a significantly greater hazard of recidivism among private prison inmates in six of the eight models tested.... In every categorical model (including the two that were non-significant), private prison inmate groups had a greater hazard of recidivism than did public inmate groups.”

            That is why I, as an activist shareholder in CoreCivic, introduced a shareholder resolution in 2014 that would have required the company to spend just five percent of its net income, beyond what it is required to spend pursuant to its contracts, on “programs and services designed to reduce recidivism rates for offenders in the Company’s correctional facilities.”

            My resolution specified that such funds could be used “to expand or enhance rehabilitative programs or services already provided in the Company’s correctional facilities; to establish new rehabilitative programs or services; or as donations to non-profit organizations that provide rehabilitative or reentry programs and services for prisoners or released prisoners.”

            That certainly sounds in line with Mr. Pryor’s professed goals – thus it’s hard to explain why CoreCivic strongly objected to my resolution and requested a no-action letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which killed my resolution before it went to shareholders for a vote.

            It’s almost as if profits were more important to CoreCivic than providing more funding for rehabilitative and reentry programs – imagine that.

            Mr. Pryor also mentions CoreCivic’s partnerships with various non-profit groups that work to assist prisoners upon their release, including Men of Valor, Dismas House and The Next Door. Much of those partnerships consist of the company making financial donations to those organizations and providing them access to prisoners held in CoreCivic-operated facilities. In return, CoreCivic uses those partnerships in promotional materials – and cites them in editorials, as Mr. Pryor did – to show what a good corporate citizen it is.

            For example, in a “promotional supplement” that ran in the Nashville Business Journal last April, CoreCivic profiled its partnerships with a number of criminal justice non-profits, including Men of Valor, The Next Door and Dismas, as a way to burnish the company’s image and promote itself.

            And CoreCivic’s image is sorely in need of burnishing due to the high levels of violence, understaffing, medical neglect, murders, suicides, sexual abuse, staff misconduct and riots that occur in its facilities.

            Those issues should concern Mr. Pryor too, since it’s hard to rehabilitate prisoners when they are subjected to high levels of violence in CoreCivic’s prisons and jails. As just one example, consider the numerous serious problems at the company’s Trousdale Turner facility in Hartsville, Tennessee.

            In closing, rehabilitating offenders is most definitely a worthy goal. But when for-profit companies like CoreCivic talk about rehabilitative and reentry programs, they do so through the lens of how much money they can make and how to improve their tarnished corporate image. And they use people like Mr. Pryor to do so – who enjoyed a distinguished career in public service before joining the nation’s largest private prison firm, where he is paid to promote the company through editorials like the one to which I am now providing this response and rebuttal.

 

Alex Friedmann is the associate director of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center and a former prisoner who spent 10 years behind bars, including six years at a CCA-operated prison in Tennessee. He was released in November 1999 and has not reoffended, yet CCA/CoreCivic does not cite him as a “success story” because, based on his first-hand experience in a private prison, he strongly objects to the business model of incarcerating people for the purpose of generating corporate profit.

 


 


 

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