Photos by Jeff Djevdet and Pixabay

Private corporations make money at almost every step of our justice and prison systems, from processing fines to monitoring ankle bracelets and drug testing. And they make a lot of it. The group In the Public Interest (ITPI), has just compiled a list:

  • Global Tel-Link provides phone and video call services to 2,400 federal, state, and local correctional facilities, a total of 1.3 million prisoners.

  • Three companies provide prescription drugs to over one million prisoners: Correct Rx, Diamond Pharmacy Services, and Maxor Correctional Pharmacy Services.

  • Aramark serves 380 million meals per year to correctional facilities across North America.

Sweetheart contracts with state and federal governments, and with the private companies who now own 20 percent of federal prisons across the United States, have opened up  a whole new areas of taxpayer-funded profit-making. This includes contracts to provide pharmaceuticals to more than  one million inmates in private, federal, state, and local prisons.

According to ITPI, taxpayers forked over nearly $12 million in total compensation for the top six executives running Corrections Corporation of America in 2014.

And the competition to make a profit hasn’t been good for people in the system. The foodservice and facilities giant Aramark has been repeatedly charged with providing  dangerously unsafe food to prisoners. In fact, Aramark lost its contract with the state of Michigan last year due to maggots in the kitchen, drugs being smuggled by its employees, and Aramark workers engaging in sex acts with prisoners.  

In 2012, the Michigan legislature voted to contract out food services for state prisons to a private company. The goal was to save $14 million a year out of the state's Department of Corrections budget of approximately $2 billion. That same privatization plan cut about 370 state jobs—good, union jobs.

Aramark was the lowest bidder for the contract. However, the deal ended up costing Michigan $52.5 million a year, $13 million more than expected.

When you add the immigration component, such as entire families who are seeking asylum and instead being held as “illegal” immigrants in similar prison systems, the scale of things gets even bigger, and the profits even more massive. In fact, immigration-related prisons are the fastest-growing sector of the private prison industry.

“This research underscores just how much private profit there is in every corner of our criminal justice system,” says Donald Cohen, In the Public Interest’s executive director. “Every dollar in profit for the private corrections industry is a dollar that could be invested in building a more moral and cost-effective criminal justice system. To strengthen safety and justice in our communities, we should spend that money on adequate staffing, quality health care, and training programs to prepare prisoners for productive lives when they are released.”

The following infographic depicts the possible paths of people charged with different offenses, and the many privatized services provided by the corrections industry. For more information visit In the Public Interest.

Brandon Weber has written for Upworthy, Liberals Unite, and Good.Is magazine, mostly on economics, labor union history, and working people. He is working on two books, one on forgotten labor history and one on the fatally flawed foster and adoption system, and some ways to fix it.



When Prohibition ended it was replaced with the criminalization of drugs. Now that the war on drugs is ending they are ramping up the criminalization of gun ownership. All these criminalization programs target minorities and the lower classes. All are part of the Prison Industrial Complex that makes our Injustice System function like a good police state.
Inmates, relatives and lawyers are charged unreasonably high phone fees, even for local calls.
News and investigative reports exposed some judges who were "incentivized" by private prison companies to continually "supply" them with fresh inmates. Furthermore, a for-profit "institution" will naturally be inclined to take actions, through acting bodies of the court system, to maximize it's bottom line - profit!!
It is any responsible government's obligation to protect its citizens from criminals and as such to impose proper penalties without profiteering by anybody. Privately owned prisons are a clear conflict of interest. By this I don't mean that service suppliers like food vendors can't profit from their supplies, but rather that the prison itself is either state or federally owned and operated. Otherwise you may as well privatize the Courts.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project