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A Matter of Fact

There are 1.5 million private security guards employed in the U.S., outnumbering police three to one. Communities, individuals, and businesses spent $52 billion on private security in 1990, twice the amount of tax revenues going to police.
The crime rate dropped 4 percent overall in 1995 according to FBI crime statistics, the fourth consecutive annual drop. The 1995 National Crime Victimization Survey, often cited by statisticians as a truer measure of criminal activity, showed a 9 percent overall drop in 1995.

According to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, the number of murders fell by 7.4 percent in 1995 while the number of murders committed with a handgun dropped 11.6 percent.

The homicide rate decreased to 8 per 100,000 in 1995, a 7 percent drop from 1994 and the fourth consecutive annual decline. The most dramatic decreases occurred in large cities. New York City experienced a 24.6 percent decline in homicides. Houston's homicide rate dropped 15.7 percent, New Orleans 14.4 percent, Detroit and Washington DC both 12.2 percent, and Chicago 11.2 percent. Among large cities, Los Angeles reported a slight increase in murders, rising to 849 in 1995 from 845 in 1994.

According to a report published by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the three major TV networks aired 2,574 stories on crime in 1995, up from 632 crime stories in 1991.

The Virginia Department of Corrections employs more than 11,000 people, recently surpassing the Transportation Department as the leading state government employer. Virginia's annual DOC budget of more than $500 million is second only to the state's Department of Education budget.

According to 1994 ACA figures, state prisons held 22,495 prisoners over the age of 55, a 40 percent increase in aged prisoners since 1990. Another study pegs the number of elderly prisoners in California in 1994 at 5,000 and projects that number to increase to more than 20,000 by 1999.

From 1980 to 1994, while the number of state and federal prisoners increased by 221 percent, the number of prisoners employed in prison industries jumped by 358 percent. Prison industry sales in those years went from $392 million in 1980 to $1.31 billion in 1994.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office reported that the California Department of Correction's Joint Venture Program, designed to put prisoners to work in private industries within the prisons, and designed to save the state money, actually ended up costing the state $180,000 in 1995.

Wall Street investment firm Smith Barney is part owner of a prison in Florida. American Express has invested millions in private prison construction in Oklahoma, and General Electric has invested in private prison construction in Tennessee.
In 1993, total prisoners capacity in private prisons rose 31.7 percent, in 1994 it rose another 51 percent. More than 60,000 prisoners are now caged in privately operated prisons.

Alex M. Freedman, in a Wall Street Journal article, "Phone Firms Wrestle for Prisoners' Business in Hot Phone Market," reports that a single prison phone can gross $15,000 a year -- five times more than a street phone.

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