Critics Claim Proposed Private Prison Deal Could Encourage Harsher Sentencing

Private prison operator wants to buy facilities in exchange for a promise that they'll stay 90 percent full.
by | March 8, 2012

A private prison company is making a pitch to states that is generating controversy across the country: we'll buy your prisons, as long as you make sure they stay 90 percent filled.

The proposal by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was made to officials in 48 states, USA Today reports. Critics say that if such a deal were to go through, justice officials may be pressured to impose harsh sentences on offenders, just to live up to the terms of the contract. A spokesman for the company described the proposal as "an additional option" for states under financial pressure.

A similar deal was made last year with Ohio, when CCA bought a prison for $72.7 million. In that case, the 90 percent occupancy rule was only in effect for 18 months, instead of the 20 years CCA is proposing in its latest offer, USA Today reports.

In a separate article, USA Today reports that Harley Lappin, CCA's executive who made the proposal, left his post as director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons less than a year ago. Texas State Sen. John Whitmire said in the article that he believes Lappin is trying to profit from his connections in the public prisons community.

A spokesman for CCA told USA Today that Lappin is acting appropriately and noted that he did not solicit business from his former employer. But his letter to state leaders also noted that the business proposal is an opportunity for the federal government as well.


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