Project

Private Prisons: Locking Down the Facts

PART ONE: JAIL TOWN/Nate Hegyi: Evanston, Wyoming will soon be home to a privately-run ICE detention center. The city council says it will bring new jobs and increased tax revenues for the town. But Catholic priests and others are against it, saying it will tear at the fabric of the community.

PART TWO: PRIVATE PRISON DEPENDENCE/Madelyn Beck: It looked like Idaho’s heavy reliance on in-state private prisons would end a decade ago after one company was kicked out after being charged with mismanagement, dangerous understaffing and fostering violence in one of its facilities. However, Idaho continues to be dependent on private prisons - both in and out of the state.

PART THREE: JEKYLL AND HYDE?/Rae Bichell: When Trump announced he would crack down on crime and illegal immigration, stocks in private prison companies like GEO doubled. And there’s a narrative that such companies tend to cut corners to make a profit. Some of our states are trying to phase them out entirely. But in Australia, one state is taking a new tack, incentivizing the very same GEO to try something progressive. We travel to Melbourne to visit a prison built entirely with the goal of reducing recidivism. The goal is to keep people out of prison. And there’s cash on the line.

PART FOUR: TRANSPARENCY/Rae Bichell: Despite offering a public service the private prison industry’s reputation for lack of transparency is substantial. That makes it difficult to evaluate just how well or how poorly it is doing. It also clouds the answer to a very important question - are these facilities sufficiently adequate as well as cost-effective.

PART FIVE: EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE/Noah Glick: Prisons are often developed with the promise of good-paying jobs to the community. But that ultimately depends on who’s running the prison. Corrections officers at publicly-run prisons enjoy higher wages than their counterparts at privately-run facilities. But the differences don’t end there.

PART SIX: NEW MARKETS/Ali Budner: Private prison companies are expanding into the rehab and probation sectors. Geo Group runs halfway houses and re-entry centers in Colorado and their website has a bunch of ankle monitor locations across the state. CoreCivic also has treatment centers and transitional centers throughout the state. So why are private prison companies moving into re-entry, rehab, and mental health services? How much are they making off of it? And are they providing better services than were out there before?