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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prison is a business

Financiers, real-estate agents and car salesmen might be suffering from America's economic malaise, but bulging jails have triggered a profit boom for corrections companies.

The United States leads the world in the number of people it incarcerates and government figures show the country's prison population grew by three percent to a record 2.3 million inmates in 2006.

Harsher sentencing policies have put more criminals behind bars and prison management firms such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group are racing to build new jails or expand existing facilities to house more convicted felons.

CCA, the largest US private prison operator, is spending 205 million dollars to build a new prison in Eloy, Arizona, to house 3,060 prisoners. It is also constructing a 105-million-dollar jail near Natchez, Mississippi, to hold 1,668 inmates.

"As states struggle with overcrowded facilities, growing populations and no meaningful supply of beds coming online, they are finding that private correction companies, such as CCA, can deliver beds more quickly and less expensively than they can develop themselves," CCA's chief executive John Ferguson said in an email to AFP.

CCA's profits swelled to 35 million dollars in the fourth quarter of last year, rising from 32 million in the same period of 2006, as revenues jumped to 382 million dollars.

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