Making Profits out of Human Misery: The Business of Prisons*


 Randall G. Shelden


*A shorter version of this article appears in a new British journal called Prison Service Journal (January, 2005).


"While arrests and convictions are steadily on the rise, profits are to be made - profits from crime.  Get in on the ground floor of this booming industry now!"[1]


"It's like a hotel with a guaranteed occupancy." [2]


"A business comes in and a year or two it can't support itself... (a prison) is something you know is going to be there for a long time."[3]


"The opportunities and options in the field are endless."[4]


“There are no seasonal fluctuations, it is a non-polluting industry, and in many circumstances it is virtually invisible.”[5]


“If crime doesn’t pay, punishment certainly does…”[6]



The term military industrial complex has been used ever since President Dwight Eisenhower made reference to it in his farewell address in 1960.  This complex is an "iron triangle" of the Pentagon, private defense contractors, and various members of Congressional committees (e.g., armed services committees, defense appropriations committees).  The decision-making within any given policy arena is done within a closed circle of government bureaucrats, agency heads, interest groups, and private interests that gain from the distribution of public resources.  It is “state capitalism” rather than the “free market” that operates here.

Similarly, we can speak of a prison industrial complex, since it represents an interconnection among the criminal justice system, the political system and the economic system.  Building prisons and jails and furnishing them with everything they need to keep going (construction costs, security devices, furniture, toilet paper, etc.) involves the cooperation among private and business interests. The prison industrial complex represents an interconnection among the criminal justice system, the political system and the economic system - just like the military represents a connection with the political and economic system.  Politics and economics go hand in hand - how do you think politicians get elected and whose interests do they serve? Think also of the large number of lobbyists in the nation's capital (not to mention the same thing at the local and state level - try to see your senator, congressman, city councilman or other representative and chances are you will have to wait in line until they see corporate lobbyists). Think for a moment about the building of prisons, jails, courthouses, police departments and furnishing them with everything they need to keep going (construction costs, electrical, furniture, toilet paper, etc.) and you get an idea of what I am talking about.

My idea is similar to what Lilly and Knepper called the "correctional-commercial complex," which they describe as a sort of "sub-governmental policy-making" system consisting of an alliance between government and private enterprise.  Lilly and Knepper noted that this system is quite similar to the "military industrial complex," since it consists of patterns of interrelationships known variously as "policy networks," "subgovernment" or the "iron triangle."  They argued that such a system may not be legally a form of government, but nevertheless may exert greater influence than more formal structures of the government.  In comparing this system to the military equivalent they note that within the military subgovernment there is an "iron triangle" of the Pentagon, private defense contractors, and various members of Congressional committees (e.g., armed services committees, defense appropriations committees).  They noted further that the decision-making within any given policy arena "rests within a closed circle or elite of government bureaucrats, agency heads, interest groups, and private interests that gain from the allocation of public resources."[7]

            Business is booming within the prison industrial complex, largely because of recent trends in the incarceration rates in the United States.  Presently, the incarceration rate is almost 500 per 100,000 population (more than 700 if you include jails), higher than any other country in the world. An examination of these rates dating from 1925 show that it was a mere 79 in 1925, increased to 113 in 1935 and remained around the same number until 1975 when it was 111.  However, between 1975 and 1995 the rate almost quadrupled to 411, then increasing again to 475 in 2002. The increases since 1975 can be attributed mostly to the "war on drugs" (drug arrests account for almost half of the new prison admissions during the past 15-20 years).[8]

Comparatively speaking, we are way ahead of other industrial democracies, whose incarceration rates tend to cluster in a range from around 55 to 120 per 100,000 population, with some well below that figure, like Japan's rate of 36, with an average incarceration rate for all countries of the world of around 80.  Thus, America's incarceration rate is almost nine times greater than the average country, and well ahead of every European country.[9] (It should be noted that the current crime rate in the United States is roughly what it was in the early 1970s, so incarceration rates have little to do with the level of crime, except that arrests for drugs have gone way up.)


Prisons as a “Market” for Capitalism


Within a capitalist society there tends to be an insatiable desire to continue "converting money into commodities and commodities into money."  Everything, it seems, is turned into a "commodity" - from the simplest products (e.g., paper and pencil) to human beings (e.g., women's bodies, slaves).  Indeed, as Robert Heilbroner notes (in his book The Nature and Logic of Capitalism), within a capitalist society "daily life is scanned for possibilities that can be brought within the circuit of accumulation," since any aspect of society that can produce a profit will be exploited, including crime. In many ways, life itself has been “commodified.”[10]

The amount of money that flows into the coffers of the prison industrial complex from tax dollars alone is quite substantial.  The budget for both state and federal correctional institutions came to $34.1 billion in fiscal year 2000, which represents an increase of almost 80 percent over 1992. The costs per prisoner per day have been steadily increasing during the past decade, going from about $49 in 1991 to about $58 in 1999.  That’s about $21,170 per prisoner per year.[11] 

Literally thousands of companies, large and small, are seeking profits in this booming industry.  Employment in this industry offers careers for thousands of young men and women, many with college degrees in "criminal justice" programs at more than 3000 colleges and universities.  The criminal justice system alone provides a steady supply of career possibilities, as police officers, prison guards, probation officers and many more. Most of these jobs offer not only good starting pay, but excellent benefits and a promise of future wage increases and job security.  Many have formed unions, some of which have become stronger than any other union heretofore.

Aside from firms who build and operate correctional systems, there are several types of businesses that benefit directly from the imprisonment of offenders.  These are firms that provide several different kinds of services, such as food, vocational training, medical services, drug detecting, personnel management, architecture and facilities design and transportation.  There are also companies that sell a variety of products, such as protective vests for guards, fencing, furniture, linen, locks and many more.  The supplying of goods and services to the entire criminal justice system (including prisoners, guards and the police) brings in more than $100 billion per year.[12]

One illustration of the “cashing in” on incarceration is the large and growing number of advertising done in journals related to this industry.  Several major journals and periodicals, plus web sites, serve the correctional industry.  Examples include Corrections Today and The American Jail, plus the American Correctional Association's annual Directory.

There are at least two web sites that list company ads aimed at the prison market.  One is "corrections yellow pages" ( and another one is simply “” ( Together these contain more than 1000 different ads. organizes its web page by categories of vendors.  For example, under the heading “cleaning/sanitation” there are twenty companies, including Americhem Enterprises (they supply products like industrial degreasers, floor finishers, disinfectants, bowl cleaners, etc.), Champion Industries (specializing in “dishwashing machines for prison applications”), and Somat Corporation (“waste reduction systems for the correctional foodservice industry”).  This web site also claims to be “Home to the Industry’s Leading Organizations” and provides a list of 34 different organizations, including both the most popular national groups (e.g., American Correctional Association) and lesser-known regional groups (e.g., Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice).  

The American Correctional Association (ACA) is one of the largest national organizations in the country.  Their annual meetings draw hundreds of vendors, usually taking up an entire floor of a hotel or convention center.   On the ACA web site it mentions the $50 billion or so spent each year on prisons and jails and says to companies, “Don’t miss out on this prime revenue-generating opportunity.” 

The trade journal Corrections Today has a special issue every July in anticipation of the upcoming annual conference in August.  There are more than 200 pages in this special issue.  I have a copy of the July, 1999 issue, which includes descriptions from more than 200 different companies, selling everything imaginable.  The list includes locks and other security devices, food service, hygiene kits, bedding, blankets, ceiling systems, communications equipment, clothing, weapons, and a wide assortment of architects, engineers and consultants used to build and maintain prisons and jails. 

One section of this issue of the journal is devoted to advertising for the famous ACA Exhibit Hall, which they cleverly call the “County Fair Specialty Break.”  This ad was telling members about the previous winter meetings (these are held every January at various locations around the country) and reads as follows:


The excitement of an old-fashioned County Fair was in the air in the Exhibit Hall Tuesday morning for the 1999 Winter Conference Exhibit Hall Specialty Break.  Attendees took a chance for prizes at Correctional Healthcare Solutions, Inc.’s Wheel of Fortune and at Sverdrup Facilities, Inc.’s Coke bottle ring toss. Kenall hosted a dart game for prizes and HKS provided a clown juggler who formed balloon animals.  Aramark Correctional Services’ tarot card reader foretold attendees’ fortunes as did the palm reader Norment Detention & Security Group supplied (bold type in the original).


The page shows photos of all sorts of people (including children) having a grand old time, just like an old fashioned “County Fair.”  While of course humorous, we must not forget that the bulk of the prisoners who make all this fun possible are poor blacks who, unwittingly, are providing their masters with entertainment, just as they did in the not too distant past, with shows like “Amos ‘n Andy” and the like.  There’s some improvement, however, in that white-owned corporations provide the entertainment, while the mostly black prison population supplies the profit margins in their role as a sort of “clientele.”[13]


The Prison Construction Boom


Prison construction has become a booming business.  In 1999 alone, 24 new prisons were opened, at a total cost of just over $1 billion.   The average cost of building a new prison came to $105 million (about $57,000 per bed).  Also, in 1999 a total of 146 prisons were adding or renovating beds at a cost of $470 million (about $30,000 per bed).   As of January, 2000 a total of 29 new institutions were under construction and another 137 institutions were being renovated or adding new beds.  Most of the new beds will be in either maximum or medium security institutions, where the costs are the highest.  The total estimated costs of these new building projects come to more than $2.2 billion.[14]

A Google search on the Internet turns up dozens of companies advertising for prison construction. One example, among many, is Kitchell ( which, according to their web site, “has successfully delivered over 110,000 correctional beds, including over 130 criminal justice projects in 17 states.”  These projects include 42 state prisons, 29 adult jails, and 30 juvenile facilities.  They also build police stations, courts facilities and prison camps.

            While the above are examples of profits being made from designing, building and supplying prisons with various products, a key component of the prison industrial complex is the trend of states turning to private companies that specialize in the entire operation of prisons, from the design to the daily operation.  The next section explores this topic.


The Privatization of Prisons: More Profits for Private Industry


A recent development in the criminal justice field, related specifically to the prison system, is the trend toward what is known as privatization.  This is where a private corporation either takes over the operation of a jail or prison or builds one itself and operates it (usually contracting directly with the state).  Several years ago researchers warned about the tremendous growth in privatization in general, especially within the private police industry.  They quoted one source that called this phenomenon "creeping capitalism" or the transfer of "services and responsibilities that were once monopolized by the state" to "profit-making agencies and organizations."[15]  It should be noted that "privatization" is a trend that includes more than the criminal justice system.  This “contracting out,” as it is often termed, involves a number of services formerly provided by state and local governments, such as public education, health care, waste collection and many more. There are at least 18 types of government services that saw an increase in private-sector involvement between 1987 and 1995.[16]

Privatization has become, in the words of Edward Herman, “one of the mantras of the New World Order.  Economic, political and media elites assume that privatization provides undeniable benefits and moves us toward a good society.”  The movement toward privatization stems from the recent trends toward greater and greater corporate power.  This increased power has contributed to the emergence of neoliberal ideology.  The core beliefs of this ideology include “the efficiency of the private market, the inefficiency of government, and the dual menaces of inflation and budget deficits.”  Herman also notes that: “Part of the design of neoliberal politicians and intellectuals has been to weaken the state as a power center that might serve ordinary citizens and challenge the rule of the market.” Contributing to this trend is the increase in capital flow away from urban centers, leaving them in dire financial straits, as governments “have had to limit business taxes and spending on social benefits in order to provide a 'favorable investment climate,' leaving them under financial stress.”[17]

Through privatization, states can get around voter resistance to prison construction bonds by having private corporations build the prison, who then turn around and send a huge bill to the state and thus taxpayers.  This represents a classic case of "socializing the costs and privatizing the benefits." [18]

As of September, 2001 (latest figures available) there were 142,521 beds in 181 facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. This represents an increase of a mere 3,100 in 1987 (an increase of more than 4,500 %!).  At that time the largest proportion were under control of two companies, Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut (over 90,000 prisoners), with facilities in both the United States and abroad.[19] 

The largest, and perhaps the most controversial private prison corporation, is Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Founded in 1983, the company is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and employs more than 15,000 professionals nationwide. I once obtained a copy of their 1995 annual report, at which time they claimed to be the Aleading private sector provider of detention and corrections services to federal, state and local governments."  There was also a subsidiary, CCA International, which provided similar "services" in foreign countries.  Still another subsidiary was TransCor America, which was touted to be "the nation's largest and most experienced prisoner extradition company."  At that time, CCA’s stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  It operated 46 correctional facilities, including one in England, two in Australia and two in Puerto Rico.  This report bragged about its revenues, going from $13 million in 1986 to $207 million in 1995 (an increase of 1492%), while assets increased from $8 million to almost $47 million (an increase of 488%) and stockholders equity had gone from $24 million to $96 million (up 300%).

Since that time, CCA has run into some serious problems.  Its stock went as high as $45 in 1998, but bottomed out at merely $0.18 per share, which prompted a Wall Street analyst to comment that the company “has taken a dive that would make a dot-com blush.”  They eventually merged into Prison Realty Trust – a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that is exempt from corporate taxes providing it meets certain conditions, including distributing 95 percent of its income to shareholders.  However, Prison Realty Trust failed to meet that condition because of “cash flow problems” and reported a $62 million loss for 1999. In April, 2000 an audit cast doubt about its solvency.  All together, CCA and Prison Trust Realty Trust lost $265 million in 1999.[20]

One of CCA’s shareholders, Pacific Life Insurance Company, offered a $200 million restructuring plan, while Lehman Brothers refinanced Prison Realty’s $1 billion credit line.  At the close of business on April 26, 2000 prices closed below $3 per share and on June 7 the stock went back down to $2 per share.  However, the very next week the stock rose by $1 per share after news that they had been awarded a $780 million federal contract thanks to the assistance of the former head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Michael Quinlan, who became a board member of Prison Realty Trust (typical of private prison companies, which often lure former prison officials to be on their board of directors).  A report on the web site of The Tennessean noted that two former executives for Prison Realty Trust were to receive severance payments totaling $1.3 million.  According to this story, Prison Realty announced plans in December, 1999 to “give up its structure as a real estate investment trust and receive an infusion of up to $350 million from an investor group.”  This “investor group” includes The Blackstone Group, Bank of America and a group with an appropriate name, Fortress Investments.[21]

Corrections Corporation of America is still going strong, as seen in the following extract from its web site:


            CCA specializes in the design, building and management of prisons, jails and detention facilities and providing inmate residential and prisoner transportation services in partnership with government. The company is the sixth largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states.  CCA is the founder of the private corrections industry and is the nation’s largest provider of jail, detention and corrections services to governmental agencies. CCA has approximately 66,000 beds in 65 facilities, including 38 owned facilities, under contract for management in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The company manages more than 62,000 inmates including males, females and juveniles at all security levels and does business with all three federal corrections agencies, almost half of all states, and more than a dozen local municipalities. CCA continues its market leadership position in the corrections industry managing over 50% of all beds under contract with private operators in private operators in the United States.  CCA joined the NYSE in 1994 and now trades under the symbol CXW.



Apparently the “restructuring” has paid of as the latest price of its stock was $38.93 on July 2, 2004, according to its web site.  A facility location map shows that in Texas alone CCA operates 15 facilities; nine are located within its home state of Tennessee.


A Prison-Building Frenzy


Private profit is the driving force in the privatization of the correctional system.  A report by Equitable Securities in March, 1996 called "Crime Can Pay" included a "strong buy" advice to investors.  The report concluded:  "We consider the industry very attractive.  There is substantial room for continued private-prison growth."  The potential for profits has not escaped Wall Street.  A few years ago, Ted Goins, of Branch, Cabell and Co., Richmond, Virginia, compiled a list of "theme stocks" for the 1990s.  His highest recommendation was for Corrections Corporation of America.  A Prudential Securities vice president, who is part of a "prison-financing team," was quoted as saying that "We try to keep a close eye on all the crime bills." Wall Street was indeed eager to back the growth in "crime control stocks" with such companies as Merrill Lynch, Prudential Securities, Smith Barney Shearson and Goldman Sachs among the leaders in support of privatization.  One writer noted: "Between 1982 and 1990 California voters approved bonds for prison construction totaling $2.4 billion.  After interest is paid to lenders, the total cost will be $4.1 billion.  Now the big investors are bullish on private prisons."  The firm of Raucher, Pierce and Refsnes of Dallas, Texas are the underwriters and investment bankers for Wackenhut Corrections.  In the early 1990s, this company was reportedly doing about $5-7 million worth of business each year, mostly "buying bonds and securities from the private prison companies or the state entities which issue them and reselling them to investors.  That securities market is now a 2-3-billion dollar industry, up from nothing eight years ago..."  So enthralled about the profits, these securities firms were ready to launch the "next phase" of such development, which was to finance their own construction, with help from securities firms.[22]

They certainly started a prison building frenzy! Prison construction quickly became a booming business. During the 1990s a total of 371 new prisons opened. (About 92,000 new beds were added each year.)  In 1999 alone, 24 new prisons were opened, at a total cost of just over $1 billion.  The average cost of building a new prison came to $105 million (about $57,000 per bed).  Also, in 1999 a total of 146 prisons were adding or renovating beds at a cost of $470 million (about $30,000 per bed)).  As of January, 2000 a total of 29 new institutions were under construction and another 137 institutions were being renovated or adding new beds.  Most of the new beds will be in either maximum or medium security institutions, where the costs are the highest.  The total estimated costs of these new building projects come to more than $2.2 billion.[23]


Some Serious Problems with Privatization


One of the problems of privatization, especially when it comes to health care, is that profits are placed well above the needs of the people.  Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman recently stated that: "Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money as possible."  The article where this comment appears also quotes St. Matthew, who said that "No man can serve two cannot serve God and mammon."  In this article it was noted that one of the recent trends in managed care is the phenomenon of "unprofitable patients" who have been "dumped by HMO's because, as a result of their age and attendant medical problems, they were not profitable enough."  The article then noted the irony that "what is bad news for the dumped patients is obviously good news for Wall Street and the insurance company owners."[24] The article concludes with a quote from an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine which stated:


The most serious objection to such [investor-owned] care is that it embodies a new value system that severs the communal roots and Samaritan traditions of hospitals, makes doctors and nurses the instruments of investors, and views patients as commodities...In our society, some aspects of life are off-limits to commerce. We prohibit the selling of children and the buying of wives, juries and care is too precious, intimate, and corruptible to entrust to the market.[25]


Likewise with the privatization of prisons.

We have seen numerous instances of serious problems with the privatization of prisons and other components of the criminal justice system.  Not that the prison system has been all that successful in reducing crime, mind you, but at least prison administrators, and in fact the entire criminal justice system, are at least theoretically accountable to the public, since tax dollars support it.  With privatization, there is no accountability.  Several scandals demonstrate this, such as escapes, cost over-runs, etc.  Russell Clemens, an economist with the Department of Research for the American Federation of State, County, and Federal Employees, put the problem in perspective when he noted that the various "problems regarding security, staffing, and quality of services have plagued prison privatization from its inception."  He pointed out that in addition to numerous escapes there have been problems pertaining to both health care and food service which characterize "the low quality of service in privately operated prisons."[26] The riots at a private prison in New Jersey operated by Esmor Corrections Corporation is illustrative.  After this riot there was a lot of media coverage, with the result that Esmor's stock went from $20 per share to $7.  Since this riot, numerous private- prison corporations have been caught failing to report problems within their prisons.  The reason is simple: such secrecy protects shareholders "from adverse market reactions that would likely occur if a problem were to be reported."[27]

As already suggested, the profits from the existence of prisons are dependent upon the continued increase in prison admissions.  What if prison admissions begin to decline?  We are already seeing some evidence of this.  For instance, in New York State there has been a recent downward trend in the number of prisoners, resulting in the reduction of prison staff at many prisons.  Specifically, in 2001 the New York Department of Corrections began a hiring freeze at 36 of the state's prisons, with the expectation that they will eliminate just over 600 jobs.  One facility in upstate New York is illustrative.

A $90 million jail was built in tiny (pop. 2,400) Cape Vincent (near the St. Lawrence River) in 1988.  Now with recent downward trends in prison populations they are worried that what they thought was a recession-proof industry may come to an end.  One prison worker said, "Who ever thought crime would go down?  Who ever thought we would run out of inmates?"[28]

And worry they should, as about $2.4 billion per year goes into the state prison system, with millions of dollars going into the upstate economy each year.  Salaries for correctional officers start at around $33,000, with raises to $44,000 after 20 years. Not bad in rural areas where the cost of living is so much lower than in the cities.[29]

Still another example comes from the state of Mississippi.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a prison operated by Wackenhut in Holly Springs ran into trouble finding prisoners to fill about 130 beds.  In fact, recently the state found itself with 2,000 more beds than prisoners!  The same is happening in South Carolina, with more than1,000 empty beds.  These developments are bad news for corporations like Wackenhut, who depend upon a steady supply of prisoners.  In Mississippi, a state representative who was touring one of their prisons, pointed to a prison guard and said "If we don't get [more inmates], she might get laid off." Many who previously support building prisons in Mississippi are now changing their minds.  A former police chief who is in charge of the state corrections department, who never had any qualms sending people to jail, now  complains that for too many people the only reason to build prisons is to "make money off inmates" and he said that this has "gotten a little too skewed for my liking."[30]

The most recent analysis of the impact of the privatization of prisons comes from a report by a group known as "Good Jobs First."  In a detailed study of 60 private prisons (constituting half the total privatized prisons in the country), they found that the promised benefits to state and local governments have failed to materialize.  More importantly, however, they found that at least 73% of the prison had received a development subsidy from local, state or federal government sources, while over one-third (37%) received low-cost construction via tax-free bonds or other government-issued debt securities, 38% received property tax abatements and another 23% got subsidies for things like water, sewer or utility hook-ups, access roads, etc.  The two largest private companies involved in prison building, Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut, were heavily subsidized (78% of CCA prisons and 69% of Wackenhut's prisons were subsidized).  The study could find no evidence of whether or not the privatization of prisons had the desired effects on local communities.[31]

Whether or not privatization of prisons continues (and there are some serious doubts that this trend will continue), prisons and jails will continue to operate, which will still guarantee steady employment for a large workforce, plus continuous profits for those businesses that provide various goods and services (security devices, food, linen, etc.).[32]




[1] An advertising brochure from an investment firm called World Research Group, cited in Silverstein, K. (1998). “America's Private Gulag.” In Burton-Rose, D. Pens and P. Wright (eds.). (1998). The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry.  Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, p. 156.


[2] Ron Garzini, Private prison booster, quoted in Parenti, C. (1999).  Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in an Age of Crisis. New York: Verso, p.  211.


[3] Town supervisor of Chesterfield, New York, quoted in Welch, M. (1999).  Punishment in America: Social Control and the Ironies of Imprisonment.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, p. 24.


[3] Advertising brochure for the University of Phoenix, which claims that you can “earn your degree in 2 to 3 years, in most cases.”  It offers courses in many different locations, with classes starting almost every month.  On the brochure it is noted that "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of criminal justice will expand faster than most other occupations through 2008."  Courses are taught by "experienced lieutenants, police chiefs, and captains" and "covers the latest theories, techniques, and technologies being used in criminal justice today."  A business reply card is included in this brochure.

[5]  A California Department of Corrections official explaining some of the benefits of putting a prison in a rural area. Quoted in Huling, T. (2002).  “Building a Prison Economy in Rural America.”  In M. Mauer and M. Chesney-Lind (eds.), Invisible Punishment: the Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment.  New York: New Press, p. 200


[6] Duke, L. (2000).  “Prison Construction Boom Transforms Small Towns.”  The Washington Post, September 8.


[7] Lilly, J. R. and P. Knepper. 1993. "The Correctional-Commercial Complex." Crime and Delinquency 39, p. 152.


[8] Maguire, K. and A. L. Pastore (eds). 1996. Sourcebook on Criminal Justice Statistics - 1995. Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; Harrison, P. M. and A. Beck. (2003). “Prisoners in 2002.” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, July; Currie, E. (1998).  Crime and Justice in America.  New York: Metropolitan Books; Christie, N. (2000).  Crime Control as Industry. (3rd ed.).  New York: Routledge.


[9]  Currie, p. 15.


[10]  Heilbroner, R. L. 1985. The Nature and Logical of Capitalism. New York: W. W. Norton, p. 60. 


[11] Camp, C. G. and G. M. Camp (2000).  The Corrections Yearbook 2000: Adult Corrections. Middletown, CT:  Criminal Justice Institute, pp. 84 & 186..


[12]  Shelden, R. G. 2004.  “It’s More Profitable to Treat the Disease that to Prevent it: Why the Prison Industrial Complex Needs Crime.”  Paper presented at Eastern Kentucky University, April 8, 2004 (Conversations in Critical Criminology and Feminist Analyses).  Reprinted and updated in:


[13]   As I have noted elsewhere, the majority of the nation’s prisoners are racial minorities and the black incarceration rate is more than five times greater than for whites.  See, “The New American Apartheid” –


[14]  Camp and Camp, p. 76.


[15] Spitzer, S. and A. T. Scull (1977).  "Privatization and Capitalist Development: The Case of Private Police."  Social Problems 25, 18-29.


[16] Laursen, E.  (1996). "A Tale of Two Communities," Z Magazine (October), 45-50.


[17]  Herman, E. (1997). "Privatization: Downsizing Government For Principle and Profit."  Dollars and Sense (March/April).


[18]  Dyer, J.  (2000). The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime.  Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 245


[19] The 1987 figures are from Austin, J. and J. Irwin (2001).  It's about time: America's incarceration binge (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth., p. 66; the 2001 figures are from Charles Logan’s “Private Prisons” (



[21]  G. Ward, “Two executives to share $1.3 million upon leaving Prison Realty Trust,” (2/17/2000). I got onto Fortress Investment’s web site and found the following statement: “Fortress currently manages over $2.1 billion of private equity capital on behalf of prominent institutional investors and high net worth individuals in two funds:

The private equity funds primarily make control-oriented investments in asset-based businesses and asset portfolios in the United States and Western Europe. The funds target cash flowing investments that can be acquired at attractive valuations due to structural complexity, distress, or general disfavor within the capital markets. The investment objective of the funds is to generate attractive private equity returns combined with significant downside protection in the form of tangible collateral. Asset-based sectors in which the private equity funds have been active investors include financial services, real estate, energy and power, senior living and the cell tower sector.”

[22] Brayson, C. 1996. "Crime Pays for Those in the Prison Business." The National Times, September: 28-       35; Thomas, P. 1994. "Making Crime Pay: Triangle of Interests Creates Infrastructure to Fight Lawlessness," Wall Street Journal, May 12: A1, A6.


[23] Camp, C. G. and G. M. Camp (2000).  The Corrections Yearbook 2000: Adult Corrections.  Middletown, CT:  Criminal Justice Institute, p. 76.


[24] Wolfe, S. M. (1999).  "Milton, Matthew and Managed Care."  Health Letter 15, 12.  Washington, DC: Public Citizen Health Research Group, p. 12.


[25] Ibid, p.  11.


[26]  Dyer, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, p. 203.


[27]  Ibid, p. 204.


[28] Rhode, D. (2001).  “A Growth Industry Cools as New York Prisons Thin.”  New York Times, August 21.          


[29]  Ibid.


[30]  Gruley, B.  (2001). “Wanted: Criminals: Why Did Mississippi Agree to Pay for Cells for ‘Ghost Inmates’.”  Wall Street Journal, September 6 (on-line version).


[31] Mattera, P. and M. Khan (2001).  Jail Breaks: Economic Development Subsidies Given to Private Prisons.  Washington, DC: Good Jobs First (October).


[32]  A more detailed discussion of these and related issues can be found in my “It's More Profitable to Treat the Disease than to Prevent it: Why the Prison Industrial Complex Needs Crime.”



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