If you want to make money these days, owning stock in a prison company is the place to do it. The confinement of human beings, while selling their cheap labor to companies seeking to save on labor costs has become a cash cow. One company that has benefited handsomely from the profit boom is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
CCA is the largest owner of private prisons in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states. The company just announced that it’s Board of Directors has declared a special dividend to shareholders of $675 million dollars.
The company can pay its shareholders so well because it is rolling in money. The prison population has spiked since the Sentencing Reform Act of 1986, which created long prison sentences for those charged with the possession or distribution of drugs. Those hardest hit have been African Americans.
NAACP President Ben Jealous spoke to the matter recently when he announced his group’s plans to join Dr. Boyce Watkins, Russell Simmons and 175 scholars, activists and celebrities who are calling for an end to mass incarceration and the War on Drugs. The United States has just five percent of the world’s population, yet it houses 25% of the nation’s prisoners. Jealous says that it’s time for the nation to get smart on crime:
More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nothing more than a non-violent drug offense. And over 40% of them are people of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial and ethnic lines, blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized for drug law violations than whites. One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 28 Latino children and one in 57 white children.
The CCA operates a total of 67 prison facilities throughout the United States, with a total capacity of 92,500 beds in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The company was heavily criticized for offering to buy prisons in 48 states, in exchange for a guaranteed occupancy rate of at least 90%.