Thirty-five years ago, our country’s criminal justice system was in crisis. The court system had intervened in prisons in 40 states and the District of Columbia due to their poor conditions. Eight corrections systems had been declared unconstitutional or were operating under court order. This means that those facilities were dangerously overcrowded or failed to meet minimum standards for safe and humane conditions.
It was in that time of crisis that the private sector stepped up to provide solutions. Our company, CoreCivic, was founded then, and today, we continue to play a critical role for systems that are overcrowded or aging. Over the course of more than three decades, we have successfully partnered with federal, state and local government entities to meet their challenges creatively and efficiently in ways they could not do alone. As a result, many systems are safer and better able to provide quality programming for the inmates in their care.
Unfortunately, in today’s charged political environment, many of the characterizations of the work we do are misinformed or flat-out wrong. However, a candid discussion of the facts brings nuance to a conversation too often drawn along ideological battle lines.
First, it’s important to note that contractor-operated prisons house only 9% of inmates nationwide, meaning we play a small but important role for the government partners with whom we work. Any claim that our industry is a driver for mass incarceration completely ignores this fact.
It also ignores the fact that we are leading the way on efforts to help people stay out of prison once they’re released. For example, we’ve made commitments to strengthen re-entry programming in our facilities unprecedented in the public or private sector. Our commitments include specific goals in areas like substance use treatment, faith-based programming and educational opportunities like achieving high school equivalency certificates and vocational certificates.
Additionally, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to advocate for a range of government policies that will help former inmates successfully reintegrate into their communities — though we still have a long-standing policy not to lobby on legislation that affects the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention. Examples of re-entry policies we specifically support include “Ban the Box” proposals to help improve former inmates’ chances at getting a job and increased funding for re-entry programming. As part of this effort, we strongly backed passage of the bipartisan First Step Act, which was signed into law last year.
Our commitment to operational excellence starts with a high level of supervision by and cooperation with our government partners from whom we receive continuous monitoring and feedback. Many of our government partners maintain full-time, on-site monitors in our facilities to promote accountability and ease of communication. They also require regular review and audit processes. In 2018 alone, our government partners conducted 86 annual, comprehensive-type audits of our facilities and an additional 291 semi-annual, quarterly and other periodic audits. Additionally, year after year, our accreditation scores from the independent American Correctional Association remain above 99% compliant.
Last but not least, we provide a positive financial effect. Public studies, plus our own direct findings, have shown that privately operated corrections facilities can save our government partners money without sacrificing the quality of the service.
An industry-supported, peer-reviewed study published by the Independent Institute found that companies like ours generate 12% to 58% in long-run taxpayer savings without sacrificing the quality of service. While the study received funding from the private corrections industry, it was subject to a rigorous peer-review process, and it relied solely on data from state government sources for its calculations.
Much more detail on all of these topics can be found in our recently released, first-of-its-kind ESG report. It details how we deliver on our service commitments to our government partners and manage our operations responsibly and ethically.
CoreCivic has more than three decades of experience as a dependable, professional partner for government. We bring the scale, experience and professionalism needed to take on and solve tough government problems in cost-effective ways. We meet the needs of our government partners by being flexible, responsive and working fast. Above all, we’re driven by a deep sense of service and the knowledge that our work makes a positive difference in people’s lives and our communities.
To take away this important tool that helps governments flexibly manage their corrections needs would only return us to the overcrowded, dangerous systems — devoid of meaningful programming — that led to our creation in the first place.