[Front paged: Noemie Maxwell. Update by NM 7/31/08: Washington State has begun bringing home people from out-of-state private prisons. Josh was among the first returnees. New prison construction made the returns possible. Nicole's advocacy helped educate policymakers and others -- and may have hastened the process. Two recent interviews, with the current Secretary of WA Dept. of Corrections and with a prior Secretary, provide perspective on how this agency has resisted the privatization of the prison system in this state: Conversation with Chase Riveland, head of Washington Corrections when the tough-on-crime wave hit and Conversation with Eldon Vail, Secretary Washington Department of Corrections. The state legislature has begun acting on research it commissioned in 2005 that shows we can reduce our incarceration rate and build fewer prisons -- for comparable crime-reduction benefits. ]

During 2006, our 1,600-bed Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minnesota housed a daily average of approximately 1,500 inmates as a result of new contract awards in mid-2004 and subsequent increasing demand for beds from the states of Minnesota and Washington ... and Idaho, compared with a daily average of approximately 867 inmates during 2005. As a result, total revenue increased by $13.9 million at this facility during 2006 compared with the prior year." US Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-K, for Corrections Corp of America, fiscal year ending 12/31/06.  Also see NASDAQ Summary quote for CCA, which shows a $3.2 billion market share.

Joshua Scott.... he is my best friend, my soul mate, my everything, the one person I can count on to always listen and never judge me, the man who is the head of my family. To my children Josh is Dad, the man who teaches them how they will relate to people in the future, who helps them with homework, their mentor, their provider of guidance. To Washington State he is inmate number 788119, and to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) he is a unit of profit.

Washington Department of Corrections currently contracts with CCA, a private for-profit prison.  In a time where we are seeing crime decrease in Washington there is also a strange epidemic of the prison population increasing (1). Every person who is locked up means more profit for companies like CCA. It's profitable for them to promote a misconception that they are securing our safety. Investors love the perception that this gives: lock up more people and we are safer. But there is a social cost to separating families through imprisonment. Children are separated from parents at critical times. (2,3,4) Family ties are disrupted and sometimes completely broken. Men and women are left with no one to go home to when they are released from prison. People are more likely to commit crime when they feel that they have nothing to straighten themselves up for.  We remove people temporarily from mainstream society, but we are also increasing social instability by disrupting families while providing little to no treatment for the situations that got people on the path of crime in the first place.

Just last week there was a conference call between some of the top people at CCA and some of their investors to report the 4th quarter earnings and the fiscal year 2007 earnings. During this meeting William F. Andrews, Chairman of the Board, stated, "Our revenues are up 12% for the year, were up to a $1.478 billion. Our earnings per share adjusted are up 26% our actual earnings per share are up 23.3% and we finished the year $1.06 and EBITDA is up 19% and our free cash flow is up 14.1% with $206 million for the year. Our occupancy for the fourth quarter is at 79.9%, still improving."

The statement of our occupancy improving is the exact opposite of how I see it. When the prison population is growing it is a bad sign for our society. The growth of prisoners means that there has also been an increase in victims, tax dollars spent, and families that are hurting (families of victims and the man or woman in prison). We cannot and do not expect a business to run themselves out of customers so it would be ridiculous to think that CCA is going to try to rehabilitate any of the men and women who are imprisoned behind their walls, they would reduce the need for their service and that will never happen.

During the last year I have personally been affected by the business of prison privatization as Josh was sent to a facility in Arizona. I have seen the effect this has had on my children and felt what it has done to me. My children and I have committed no crime, but we are still being punished. Josh and I spent a lot of time explaining to our kids that Daddy did something that was very bad and that he is being punished for what he did, but no matter what he would always be there for them. We were trying to provide our children with a stable relationship with their Dad when he was given word that he was being screened to be sent out of state. We did what the Department of Corrections told us to do which is write letters stating why we thought that Josh should remain in the state and we kept visiting every weekend. We put the thought of Josh possibly being sent to Arizona in the back of our mind because we were assured t hat the DOC would look at the family hardships that him being sent would create, and the amount of visits we had were a contributing factor to him being put on the bottom of the list of men that would possibly be transferred.  In April, on a Monday morning, I got an excited call from Josh saying that the transfer list came out and he was not on it, he was staying in Washington. All I felt was relief. Then, the very next day Josh called me at work along with his counselor, I knew right away that something was wrong, and it was. Josh told me that he had been added last minute to the list of men that would be leaving for Arizona. He told me to make sure that our kids were home that night and to call his ex-wife so she would have their kids available to talk so that he could make sure to let the kids know that he was having to go and that he loves them.

It has been almost a year since we have seen Josh. I deal with the questions from the kids wondering when they will see their Daddy again and why did Daddy have to go by telling them that Daddy wants to be here and that we will see him as soon as we can.

CCA is profiting from pain and suffering and we as taxpaying citizens are the ones giving them their money and "customer base". I am sickened that my money is paying for a company that profits from increased prison population, and tears families apart. Take a look at the personal stories of the people being held behind these concrete walls and razor-wire fences, you will find some men and women who will never change, but you will also find those who do and we as a society need to help the ones who are trying to make that change for the safety and protection of everyone involved.

Please contact your legislators and the Department of Corrections and let them know that contracting with CCA is not promoting the values that we as a society need from them. Demand that the men and women from our state be brought back to state-run facilities and given rehabilitative programs and allow them to maintain the family relationships that could be the difference between these men and women being released and going to work everyday, or going back to the way of life that lead them to prison in the first place.

Help to make the Department of Corrections just that: a department that corrects, that serves the public instead of private, multi-billion dollar interests.

Photo added by Noemie Maxwell. Nicole Brummitt and Anthony Scott outside the John L. O'Brien building in the state capital after testifying before the Washington State House Committee on Human Services in favor of HB 2688, Constraining the department of corrections' authority to transfer offenders out of state.  WA DOC testified against this bill and it was derailed. See Washblog story: We Cannot Build Prisons Fast Enough: WA Dept. of Corrections on Prison Transfers.


  1. Options to Stabilize Prison Populations in Washington
  2. Currently, 28,900 Washington state children have a parent in prison. Letter to Governor Gregoire from Transition Reentry and Reform Coalition, 12/10/07
  3. It is estimated that children of incarcerated parents are five (5) to seven (7) times more likely to go to prison than children who do not have a parent who has been involved in the criminal justice system. Bilchik, S., Seymour, C., & Kreisher, K. (2001). Parents in Prison. Corrections Today,  63, 7, 108-112.  Cited in Children of Incarcerated Parents, Council on Crime and Justice, 1/2006
  4. It is estimated that up to half of all male children of incarcerated parents will go on to commit crimes themselves. LEFT BEHIND: Tens of thousands of children have a parent behind bars. What are the social costs of their loss?, Nell Bernstein, Mother Jones, July 10, 2001

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A for profit prison system is just about as insane as a for profit fire department.  Not enough crime and not enough fires?  Then criminalize more actions and commit arson if necessary.  The basic contradiction is that for profit companies want more of this stuff, but the public wants less of it.

by eridani on Tue Feb 26, 2008 at 08:00:50 PM PST

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This post is heart wrenching to me...Thank you for your honesty and research.  I've known Federal prisoners who ended up in places far from their families, sometimes there are church based networks who can at least provide a place to stay for families who have means to travel to visit their loved ones.....but this, and a previous, post show the state prison systems are plain out of control.

Why is it legal to have private companies perform state functions - for profit?

Why is it legal to take sentencing out of the hands of the judiciary and juries, and put it in the hands of the prosecutors?

I totally support overturning crazy laws that increase prison populations with no regard to whether imprisonment is needed for public safety, and passing laws to contain inhumane actions against people who are incarcerated and to support the human development of those who are paying back society.  I also feel that we have a responsibility to create systems that provide drug treatment on demand, free.  Universal Healthcare anybody?

I fear with the way that our Constitution has been turned upside down, profit making is the new god, Corporations are human beings, if you are not a good little worker or have bad luck, you too can just live out on the street or get warehoused in prison.

We may end up facing challenges from "free enterprise" and corporate "persons" that somehow rights are being violated if we pass laws constraining or preventing private for-profit prison industrial sector.  But, we need to go for the right thing anyway.

Folks might consider going on the offensive to blast the courts with class actions regarding mandatory minimum sentencing and punishment conditions that are inhumane.  Maybe getting better people in the State and National Supreme Court would be a pre-condition to having any success in those types of efforts....

Anyway, thank you for your great work.

by ktkeller on Tue Feb 26, 2008 at 09:54:11 PM PST

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of what is wrong with our corporate system.  Or, at least, another example in the long line of privatization run amok.  I have to say I like the idea of inmates working, but the exploitation we can do without.  I will send letters to my legislators.

by awickens on Wed Feb 27, 2008 at 02:12:35 PM PST

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