by Matt Clarke
Private prison companies are known for their cynical motives. They lobby and give money to politicians to expand the for-profit prison industry, and have provisions in their contracts that guarantee minimum occupancy levels at many of their facilities – typically ranging from 90 to 100 percent. Such practices are understandable when you consider these companies operate detention centers for the purpose of generating corporate profit.
But CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), recently drove the cynicism meter to new levels. It announced it had created a nonprofit foundation, allegedly to reduce recidivism, then funded it Trump-style by lending the use of its name but having others do the actual funding.
The company’s chief development officer, Tony Grande, announced the creation of a 501(c)(3) group, the CoreCivic Foundation, on January 10, 2019. The firm held a charity golf tournament that raised $531,000 in October 2018; it has held similar events for the past 27 years to raise money for charitable causes. According to CoreCivic, its new foundation will “support former prisoners, victims of crime and abuse, and underserved youth.” It specifically named Men of Valor as an organization that will receive funding.
According to GuideStar, “Men of Valor is committed to winning men in prison to Jesus Christ and discipling them. Our purpose is to equip them to re-enter society as men of integrity – becoming givers to the community rather then takers.” Men of Valor runs Christian-based programs at three prisons in Tennessee, including two operated by CoreCivic.
Newly-elected Tennessee Governor Bill Lee serves on Men of Valor’s board of directors, as does CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger; Lee received at least $23,600 in campaign donations from CoreCivic.
The company spent $1.5 million to lobby on the federal, state and local levels in 2017, plus $840,000 during the first nine months of 2018. It spent an additional $829,100 in political contributions in 2017, according to its most recent self-reported data. Those expenditures far exceed the charitable funding it provides through the CoreCivic Foundation.
In June 2018, Hininger told investors that under the Trump administration, “this is probably the most robust kind of sales environment we’ve seen in probably 10 years” – which provides a more realistic look at CoreCivic’s priorities. Indeed, the company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to generate profit; its purpose is not to reduce recidivism, which would in fact undercut the firm’s incarceration-based business model.
Organizations that are eligible to receive grants from the company’s newly-formed charitable foundation include those that “align with CoreCivic’s mission” – which presumably means they have no problem with for-profit prisons. They also must have a “[h]istory of relationship with CoreCivic through board service, volunteerism, etc.”
Prison Legal News and its parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, object to any criminal justice non-profit receiving funds from private prison companies – which is analogous, in the case of faith-based groups like Men of Valor, to “using the devil’s money to do God’s work.” It’s still the devil’s money.
In addition to Men of Valor, the following non-profit organizations have accepted funding from CoreCivic: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle TN, Book’em, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle TN, Dismas, Inc., Education Equal Opportunity Group, Inc., Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, Inc., Girl Scouts of Middle TN, Junior Achievement, March of Dimes, Martha O’Bryan Center, Mending Hearts, Inc., Mental Health America, Miriam’s Promise, Renewal House, Inc., Tennessee Voices for Victims, The Next Door and The Salvation Army.
Sources: brentwoodhomepage.com, nonprofitquarterly.org, corecivic.com, followthemoney.org, guidestar.org
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