In October of this year Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private, for-profit prison corporation, launched a corporate rebranding by changing their name to CoreCivic. In the midst of the most unusual Presidential cycle in modern history, this news went mostly unnoticed. However, the impact that CCA’s rebranding — including its expansion into a “wider range of government solutions” — can have on criminal justice reform cannot be underestimated.
Source: Tom Dwyer
In the last three decades, CCA, or CoreCivic as it will now be called, has grown into a company with a market cap nearing $3 billion. When the company was founded in 1983, the state and federal prison population was around 400,000. As of 2014, the state and federal prison population was over 1.5 million, according to the Sentencing Project. In the 1990s, Prudential Securities issued a bullish report on then CCA, noting that in order for CoreCivic to be profitable, the company needed to be successful “in ramping up population levels in its new facilities at an acceptable rate”. CoreCivic took notice and according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company has spent over $17 million over the last decade on lobbying efforts. These lobbying efforts have resulted in legislation such as “minimum sentencing,” “three strikes,” and “Truth in Sentencing,” which requires inmates to serve no less than 85% of the imposed sentence.
As efforts from criminal justice reform advocates take hold, CoreCivic has focused its efforts on other sources of revenue; revenue that is paid by taxpayers across America. In August of this year, the Department of Justice announced its plans to end the use of private prisons, and in the same week details surfaced of a $1 billion contract awarded CoreCivic to build a detention center to house women and children who are seeking asylum in the U.S.
In 2011, the Obama administration announced its prisoner reentry program as a major pillar of the administration’s strategy to reform the criminal justice system. The programs are intended to facilitate the successful transition of incarcerated individuals back to their communities by providing services such as temporary housing and job training. CoreCivic has followed the money, and are “excited about the potential for the CoreCivic brand to accelerate the Company’s growth and value-creation in new areas.” The new area: housing for reentry programs. CoreCivic has invested nearly $250 million to grow its complex of residential reentry facilities. CoreCivic’s chairmen, Mark A. Emkes, stated that the company wants to “play an even bigger role in making a positive difference in our communities and individual lives.” That sounds like a benevolent mission, however, CoreCivic benefits and profits from high occupancy rates at its prisons and detention centers, and high recidivism rates that return individuals to prison.
The other focus of CoreCivic’s rebranding: detention centers that imprison mothers and children, individuals seeking asylum, among other undocumented immigrants, before deportation. The latest government contract awarded to CoreCivic was announced this week; a potential increase of 500 detainees at its Northeast Ohio detention center.
Hard-fought progress has been made by advocates to reform the criminal justice system, including the DOJ’s decision not to use private prisons at the federal level. CoreCivic has taken notice and this rebranding is a clear signal that the company will go through any lengths to stay in business and to stay profitable. It’s worth noting that since November 9th, the company’s stock has increased in value by 30%.
CoreCivic directly profits from our tax dollars. Regardless of your politics, Democrat or Republican, conservative, or liberal, our tax dollars are ending in the pockets of CoreCivic’s shareholders. As is the goal of any other corporation, CoreCivic’s main goal is to maximize profits, and in this case it is as the expense of all of us. The name of Corrections Corporation of America might have changed, and even incorporated CIVIC, a national non-profit with a mission to end U.S. immigration detention, into its name, but the goal of CoreCivic continues to be the same: profit from the incarceration and detention of people at the expense of taxpayers. Advocates for criminal justice reform must stay vigilant to any changes to policies around reentry programs and detention centers. We must follow the money.
Julissa Arce is a political commentator, speaker, writer and author of MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. She is a contributor for CNBC and the Huffington Post. Her writing has been featured in CNN, The Hill, Refinery29, CNN en Español, and Fusion among other national outlets.