PRIVATE PRISONS

Georgia currently has the highest rate in the U.S. of individuals under some form of correctional control – probation, parole, prison or jail. While the national average is 1 out of every 31 people is under correctional supervision (prison, jail, probation, parole), Georgia’s rate is 1 out of 13 adults.

In considering ways to improve the criminal justice system in Georgia, it is essential that the Georgia General Assembly examine the privatization of criminal justice functions in the state. Corporations have a financial incentive to further expand the number of people under correctional control, an incentive directly at odds with Georgia taxpayers’ interest in reduc­ing criminal justice spending while prioritizing public safety.

Research into the performance of private entities in the criminal justice system shows that cost savings do not ma­terialize, and purported efficiencies come at the expense of public safety. Alternative methods should be considered to restrict the role of private companies in shaping policy, curb the growth of private criminal justice institutions that depend on continual increase in the number of people under correctional control, and create systems of accountability to hold private entities to their promises of greater efficiency, quality of services, and cost effectiveness, as well as their contract terms.

Private prisons in Georgia are run by the two biggest private prison companies in the country-Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. These companies are big money-makers. CCA and The GEO Group together received more than $2.5 billion in revenue in 2010.

The proposed budget for FY2013 allocated $35,274,014 to “annualize the cost of” 2,650 new private prison beds.1 However, the Georgia Department of Corrections found that in FY 2011, private prisons cost the state $45.81 per inmate per day while state-run prisons cost the state $44.51.2 In other words, the state is payed an additional $35 million per year going forward, even though by its own calculations, it will pay $1,257,425 more each year for the 2,650 new beds (or $4,132,895 more per year for the total 8,710 GDC-contracted private prisons beds).

In a sense, private prison companies are getting a return on their investment, having poured campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures into the state for at least a decade. Georgia ranked third among US states in campaign contributions from the largest private prison companies from 2003-2012, taking in $382,333.3 During the same pe­riod, CCA, GEO, and Cornell Companies (formerly the third-largest private prison company in the US; acquired by GEO in 2010) employed 16 lobbyists in the state.4

1 Jeremy Redmon, “ICE Detention Center Struggling Financially,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 23, 2012, available at http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/ice-detention-center-struggling-financially/nQTFZ/.
2 Governor Nathan Deal & Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, The Governor’s Budget Report: Fiscal Year 2013, at 152. 
3 Georgia Department of Corrections FY2011 Allocation of Cost to Inmates, Probationaers, Etc., Feb 28, 2012, available at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/pdf/CorrectionsCosts.pdf.
4 National Institute on Money in State Politics, “Lobbyist Link – Corrections Corp. of America: Lobbying and Contributions from 2003 to 2012,” available at http://www.followthemoney.org/database/lobbyistclient.phtml?lc=100552&y=All&s=GA#llink; National Institute on Money in State Politics, “Lobbyist Link – GEO Group: Lobbying and Contributions from 2003 to 2011,” available at http://www.followthemoney.org/database/lobbyistclient.phtml?lc=100516&y=All&s=GA#llink; National Institute on Money in State Politics, “Lobbyist Link – Cornell Companies: Lobbying and Contributions from 2008 to 2010,” available at http://www.followthemoney.org/database/lobbyistclient.phtml?lc=103304&y=All&s=GA#llink