Information collected by the federal government has revealed the conspicuous inequality between private prison executives and the guards that their corporations employ. According to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for private prison and jail guards in 2015 was $32,290. One in four private prison guards makes less than $26,091 annually – near the poverty line for a family of four.
By sharp contrast, based on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) Chief Executive Officer Damon Hininger received a base salary of $882,807 in 2015, which was augmented by $2.52 million in other compensation, such as bonuses and stock awards. That same year, George Zoley, CEO of the GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison firm, received a $1,000,000 base salary with additional compensation of $5.6 million.
Examining the income of those two CEOs in comparison to wages paid to private prison guards between 2011 and 2015, In the Public Interest, a public policy research organization that opposes privatization, found the median hourly rate for guards ranged between $15.53 and $16.47 per hour. In stark disparity, Zoley and Hininger’s equivalent hourly pay ranged from $426 to $487 per hour over the same time period.
The BLS found another discrepancy in the salaries of private vs. public prison guards between 2013 and 2015, which indicated employees of private prison companies earned roughly $6,000 to $9,000 less than their public counterparts. According to the BLS, the 2015 median salary for guards at publicly-operated prisons was about $41,160.
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