Private prison companies have had a rough couple of months. First, the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its private contracts for management of Bureau of Prisons facilities. Then, the Department of Homeland Security said it would re-examine the use of for-profit immigrant detention facilities. Stock prices for publicly-traded Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group both plummeted and last week CCA laid off 12 percent of its workforce (cue violins).
This may well be the beginning of the end of for-profit prisons in America. But it may not. Like the Walking Dead TV zombies, you just can't count these bloodsuckers out until its over. And a disturbing new trend suggests it is not.
We call it the Treatment Industrial Complex, or TIC. Through a combination of acquisitions and mergers and an aggressive marketing campaign, for-profit prison companies are moving to preserve their profits by seeking contracts to provide in-prison medical and mental health care; manage mental hospitals and civil commitment centers; and deliver "community corrections" programs, including prisoner reentry services and "alternatives to incarceration" like electronic monitoring.
In other words, prison companies are simply rebranding themselves to market a repackaged product, promoting their business as providing humane treatment and rehabilitation. Instead of alternatives to incarceration, it's alternative forms of incarceration.
This disgusting trend is brought vividly to life in a new video produced by Brave New Films in which the TIC is portrayed as a hairy, bloodsucking tick that is quite literally a parasite on state and federal efforts to end mass incarceration. The video lays bare how the profit motive is fundamentally at odds with efforts to truly rehabilitate people. Instead, these companies rely on recidivism and expansion of the criminal punishment system.
Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership Bob Libal warns, "Private prison corporations' very existence is at risk as the federal government and states around the country rethink their mass incarceration policies." He points out that the companies can only profit through volume -- which means ensnaring as many people as possible and holding them for as long as possible. Gross.
The video is part of a joint campaign among three diverse advocacy organizations: The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Tucson, Arizona; Grassroots Leadership out of Austin, Texas; and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. These groups have identified the various segments of the TIC and are working together to alert advocates and stakeholders nationwide about the threats that it poses.