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A new report from the Justice Policy Institute argues that private prisons have successfully lobbied the government to enact policies that result in more people going to prison. The logic: If more people go to prison, the richer the private prison companies get.

The report found that private prison corporations prefer to donate to politicians at the state level, where criminal justice policies can often be altered by legislators and governors instead of large federal agencies. The major companies have donated over $6 million to state politicians in the past decade–nearly a third of that stash was handed over to officials in California, a state where the prison system recently ordered by the Supreme Court to reduce the inmate population by 30,000 because of its “grossly inadequate” provision of medical and mental health care.

Hawaiian Governor Lisa Lingle, who transferred over a thousand prisoners from out of her state to prisons on the mainland owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, received a donation of $6,000 (the maximum amount) a full two years before she faced re-election.

Then there’s Florida, where the top two prison companies have employed 30 lobbyists. This paid off when all the prisons in South Florida—home to some 20,000 inmates—were privatized.

However, the real danger of private prisons doesn’t come from the revolving door of powerful corporate officers and government officials, just old-fashioned corruption and brutality. In the most notorious case, a private prison corporation paid two judges in Pennsylvania over $2.6 million in exchange for sending over 5,000 children to private prisons. [Justice Policy Institute]


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