Criminal Justice

Jail Quotas Guarantee Profits for Private Prisons at Taxpayer Expense


On September 19, 2013, In the Public Interest, a national group that provides information on the impacts of privatization released a report entitled Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and “Low-Crime Taxes” Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations.

This report examines the way in which private prisons often write “bed quotas” or “low crime taxes” into their agreements with state governments. These agreements essentially guarantee profit by requiring the government to pay the company even if their prison cells are empty.

They also incentivize the overcrowding of prisons, which runs counter to the goals of the many states that are just now coming to grips with their mass incarceration crisis, including Ohio.

The report chronicles the failed privatization experiment at Ohio’s North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in 2000, as well as the current debacle at Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which was sold to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011 in a deal that included a 90% bed guarantee clause. To maximize profits, CCA immediately crowded as many inmates as possible into the facility, converting classroom space to make room for more beds and triple bunking inmates so that some were sleeping on the floor.  This overcrowding has led to deplorable living conditions and a spike in violence and smuggling activity that has spilled out into the community and put inmates and guards at risk.

The report also uncovers similar problems in Colorado and Arizona and concludes with a recommendation that states reject bed quota agreements, and the many negative consequences that come along with them.