Corporate America can turn nearly anything into a profit, and crime is no different. For-profit prison companies have been operating for years now and have been turning a profit off of crime. They actually want more crime so as to keep facilities’ occupancy at a constant maximum.

Business transparency advocacy group, In the Public Interest (ITPI), released a report outlining the deals that private prison corporations strike up with local and state governments. The report illustrates the definitive dangers that such deals create and how they negatively affect government entities, taxpayers, and prisoners. In these agreements, government entities must maintain an occupancy rate of 80 – 100 percent, even if state crime rates drop.

The state of Colorado has seen a 33 percent drop in crime over the last 10 years, and five state prisons have shut down in the last four years because of that drop. Despite this positive turnaround in the crime rate, however, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) still won a bid to be the state’s featured corrections contractor.

Through shady contract negotiations, CCA was able to have Colorado commit to occupancy guarantees even though the contract stated that “the state does not guarantee any minimum number of offenders will assigned to the contractors’ facility.” And whatever vacancies are left, the Colorado Department of Corrections must pay a fee for the empty beds by way of taxpayer dollars.     

Not only do taxpayers have to pay for the empty spaces, they also must pay the per diem rate required for inmates who are transported from state prisons to CCA prisons, an accumulated $2 million.

Arizona has the worst arrangement with private prison corporations out of any other state. The state of Arizona agreed to maintain 100 percent prison occupancy and to help ensure that the state keeps up the quota, the CCA helped author SB 1070, which criminalizes being an undocumented immigrant. NPR reported that private prison contractors had “a . . . business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.”   

Much like with Colorado taxpayers, Arizona taxpayers are stuck with the bill and any fluctuations in the price tag are placed upon them. From the time private prisons struck a deal with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) until an audit in August 2012, rates had risen about 13.9 percent.

In June 2011, prison company Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and the ADC got into a dispute over whether or not a contract renewal had been done “in a timely manner. The settlement went in favor of MTC and the company was awarded an extra $2.6 million in revenue in the contract.

Lastly, in Ohio, there have been reports that the prisons themselves have been poorly affected by contracts between state governments and private prison companies. A government audit revealed that the private prisons were “chronically overcrowded,” with cases of “triple bunking” where inmates were housed in triplicate in cells built for only two. As a result, “assaults, fights, disturbances, and uses of force have all increased comparison to prior years.”

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.