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The Treatment-Industrial Complex - Alternative Corrections, Private Prison Companies, and Criminal Justice Debt 2020

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The Treatment-Industrial Complex: Alternative
Corrections, Private Prison Companies,
and Criminal Justice Debt
Laura I Appleman*
Out of the 6.7 million adults caught up in the criminal legal system, approximately 4.5 million are under correctional control outside of prisons and jails.
Within this hidden world of “alternative corrections,” people who are arrested,
detained, imprisoned, put on probation or diversion, and even released are
forced to pay a growing amount of money to various for-profit “criminal justice” actors. Alternatives to incarceration are conditioned on fines, fees, and
other forms of wealth extraction, causing a vicious cycle of poverty and indebtedness that is virtually impossible to escape. This Article explores and analyzes
the little-researched area of criminal justice debt arising from alternative corrections: how private corrections companies profit from supervising those individuals released, paroled, sent to rehabilitation or diversion, placed on
probation, or subject to forensic or civil commitment. These under-examined
forms of for-profit correctional supervision—the treatment-industrial complex—have turned supposedly progressive alternatives to incarceration into
cash-register justice.

TABLE

OF

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I. WHERE CASH IS KING: HOW PRIVATE ALTERNATIVE
CORRECTIONS BEGGARS THE POOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A. The Growth of Alternative Corrections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
B. Private Probation Companies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. Pay-Only Probation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Drug and Alcohol Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. Long-term Private Monitoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C. Drug Rehabilitation and Halfway Houses . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Rehabilitation in Free Labor: Forced Labor as
Treatment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
D. Mental Illness and Forensic Mental Healthcare . . . . . . . .
E. For-Profit Diversion Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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* Associate Dean of Faculty Research and Van Winkle Melton Professor of Law, Willamette University. J.D., Yale University; B.A., M.A., Univ. of Pennsylvania. Thank you to David
Friedman, Cynthia Godsoe, Brian Highsmith, Alexis Karterton, Lauren Ouizel, Jocelyn Simonson, Kate Weisburd, and the exemplary editors of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law
Review for your thoughtful comments and edits. Thanks also to Willamette for its research
support.

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F. Sex Offender Post-Release Treatment and Civil
Commitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. Costs of Civil Registration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Post-release Civil Commitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
II. THE PROFIT MOTIVE: THE CORRECTIONS INDUSTRY,
TAXATION & PRIVATE EQUITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A. REIT Structuring: Geo Group and CoreCivic . . . . . . . . . .
B. Pension Investments and Stock Holdings . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C. Federal Funds. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
III. SOLUTIONS AND SAFEGUARDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A. Controlling Criminal Justice Debt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
B. Divestment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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INTRODUCTION
Alternatives to incarceration, including probation, work camps, electronic monitoring, required rehabilitation, diversion, civil commitment, and
therapy, are largely unregulated in many states. Limited oversight enables
for-profit alternative corrections companies to profit from the millions of
people who must interact with the criminal legal system after they are released. These alternatives to incarceration add up to a cash-register justice
system that extracts a growing stream of money from poor people and communities of color, contributing to a pernicious cycle of poverty, indebtedness, control, and supervision.1 Individuals under privatized correctional
supervision are all too frequently trapped in a chaotic treatment-industrial
complex.2
The majority of people caught up in the criminal legal system are not
currently incarcerated, but are instead supervised by a form of alternative
corrections.3 Of the 6.7 million adults involved in the criminal legal system,
approximately 4.5 million people—almost two-thirds—are under correctional control outside of jails or prisons.4 Within this largely hidden world of
alternative corrections, people who are arrested, detained, imprisoned, put on
probation or diversion, or even released must make steep payments to various for-profit “criminal justice” actors.
1
See Alex Kornya et al., Crimsumerism, Combating Consumer Abuses in the Criminal
Legal System, 54 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 108, 110 (2019).
2
See generally CAROLINE ISAACS, AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMM., THE TREATMENTINDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: HOW FOR-PROFIT PRISON CORPORATIONS ARE UNDERMINING EFFORTS
TO TREAT AND REHABILITATE PRISONERS FOR CORPORATE GAIN (Nov. 2014), https://www.afsc
.org/sites/default/files/documents/TIC_report_online.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/5ZMP585A.
3
See WENDY SAWYER & PETER WAGNER, Prison Policy Initiative, Mass Incarceration:
The Whole Pie 2019 (Mar. 19, 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2019.html,
archived at https://perma.cc/E3GR-8E56.
4
See id.

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Today, for-profit corrections companies oversee under-examined parts
of the criminal legal system, including electronic monitoring, diversion programs, work camps, rehabilitation and treatment curriculums, civil commitment, and forensic mental hospitals. Non-prison sentencing and treatment
are a financial growth opportunity for private corrections companies, which
are developing ways to monetize this type of correctional control.5
This Article explores and analyzes the under-researched area of alternative corrections: how private corrections companies profit off of, and impose
harsh criminal legal debts on, people who are released, paroled, sent to rehabilitation or diversion, placed on probation, or subject to forensic or civil
commitment. Part I investigates the ways that alternatives to incarceration
impose high levels of criminal justice debt on people directly impacted by
the criminal legal system. Part II examines the various policy choices that
have allowed for-profit companies to thrive and expand. Part III explores
potential solutions to the twinned issue of alternative corrections debt and
the for-profit corrections industry that drives it.
I. WHERE CASH

IS

KING: HOW PRIVATE ALTERNATIVE CORRECTIONS
BEGGARS THE POOR

Alternative corrections—correctional control imposed outside of jails
and prisons—are increasingly popular.6 Approximately 3.6 million people
are on probation7 and 840,000 more are on parole, compared to the roughly
2.3 million who are incarcerated in prisons and jails.8 Mass incarceration
may appear to be on the decline.9 But the array of alternative corrections
sanctions is increasing,10 thereby frustrating recent progressive attempts to
end widespread imprisonment, surveillance, and control.11
Alternatives to incarceration are not cheap. As a result, states and counties often try to shift the costs onto the defendants themselves, either by
5
See, e.g., Campbell Robertson, Crime is Down, Yet U.S. Incarceration Rates Are Still
Among the Highest in the World, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 25, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/
04/25/us/us-mass-incarceration-rate.html, archived at https://perma.cc/JY64-TD2S.
6
See Greg Berman, Alternatives to Incarceration Are Cutting Prison Numbers, Costs, and
Crimes, THE GUARDIAN (July 4, 2013), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/
04/alternatives-incarceration-prison-numbers, archived at https://perma.cc/2TMN-DQGC.
7
ALEXI JONES, PRISON POLICY INITIATIVE, CORRECTIONAL CONTROL 2018: INCARCERATION AND SUPERVISION BY STATE (Dec. 2018), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/correctionalcontrol2018.html, archived at https://perma.cc/9M89-JTUN.
8
SAWYER & WAGNER, supra note 3.
9
See Mark Berman, Prison Populations Decline Again, Justice Department Report
Shows, WASH. POST (Apr. 25, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/prison-andjail-populations-declined-again-justice-dept-report-shows/2019/04/25/7a678c7a-6779-11e98985-4cf30147bdca_story.html, archived at https://perma.cc/3JXC-KHCA.
10
See SAWYER & WAGNER, supra note 3.
11
Cf. Emily Verdugo, Corporations Are Cashing in on the Movement to End Mass Incarceration, AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMM. BLOG (Oct. 21, 2016), https://www.afsc.org/
blogs/news-and-commentary/how-private-prison-corporations-are-cashing-movement-to-endmass, archived at https://perma.cc/TQH2-AV9F.

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charging them directly or outsourcing the provision of such services. Some
defendants are thus required to foot the bill for their own government-imposed alternative punishment. Furthermore, defendants can rarely modify or
eliminate criminal justice debt, even when they cannot pay the debt for reasons beyond their control.12 A defendant cannot discharge a criminal justice
debt through bankruptcy or avoid the potential interest or collection fees
imposed for overdue payments.13 Criminal justice debt can last a lifetime,
resulting in property takings, wage garnishment, or even arrest and imprisonment for failure to pay. Debt imposed by alternatives to incarceration can
thus cycle defendants back into the criminal legal system.14
When states and counties outsource alternative corrections, defendants
can owe criminal legal debt not only to the government, but also to a vast
network of private companies. Numerous transitional and treatment services
are now outsourced to for-profit residential and outpatient facilities managed
by privately held companies.15 Public and private companies are taking advantage of defendants sentenced to correctional alternatives and are thus
“profiteering from the criminalization of poverty and communities of
color.”16
Finally, a remarkably high number of individuals with mental health
and substance use disorders reside in or interact with the criminal legal system.17 Approximately 50% of individuals in correctional facilities experience
both mental health and substance use disorders (compared to 1–3% in the
general United States population).18 For-profit corrections companies impose
harsh additional debt burdens on incarcerated people with substance use
disorders.
A. The Growth of Alternative Corrections
The recent growth of alternative incarceration is both a reaction to and a
symptom of mass incarceration. As crime rates fall, public attention has
turned to the “astronomical financial and human costs of mass incarcera-

12
Travis Stearns, Legal Financial Obligations: Fulfilling the Promise of Gideon by Reducing the Burden, 11 SEATTLE J. FOR SOC. JUST. 963, 965 (2013).
13
See id.
14
See Laura I Appleman, Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration: Cash Register Justice in
the Criminal System, 57 B.C. L. REV. 1483, 1485 (2016).
15
See Michael Ostermann & Jordan Hyatt, When Frontloading Backfires: Exploring the
Impact of Outsourcing Correctional Interventions on Mechanisms of Social Control, 43 L. &
SOC. INQUIRY 1308, 1308–09 (2018).
16
Kornya et al., supra note 1, at 111.
17
See CATE GRAZIANI & ESHE COLE, GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP, INCORRECT CARE: A
PRISON PROFITEER TURNS CARE INTO CONFINEMENT 5 (Feb. 2016), http://grassrootsleadership
.org/sites/default/files/reports/incorrect_care_grassrootsleadership_2016.pdf, archived at
https://perma.cc/QQZ9-6UEZ.
18
See id.

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tion.”19 Alternatives to incarceration may seem appealing to criminal justice
reformers seeking to reduce lengthy prison sentences and divert people away
from jail and prison time. States have also explored alternatives to traditional
incarceration as a cost-saving measure,20 as the cost of incarcerating individuals in jails and prisons rose to a staggering $87 billion in 2015.21 Sentencing
reform is unquestionably an overdue response to mass incarceration. But
reliance on alternative corrections can still harm the people caught in the
criminal legal system, including through surveillance, accrual of criminal
justice debt, and abuse by private corrections companies.
Alternatives to incarceration are frequently both exploitative and costly
for defendants. The alternative corrections market imposes harsh costs on
individual criminal defendants, including many who are in poverty.22 In addition, alternative corrections still function as punishment, imposing serious
demands on individuals’ time, money, and communities.23 Alternative sentencing allows policymakers and politicians to pay lip service to disrupting
mass incarceration, but may widen the criminal legal net by “bringing more
people into the system, even if they’re not behind bars.”24 Thus, the expansion of the alternative corrections realm, through probation, parole, diversion, electronic monitoring, and work camps, actually ends up keeping more
people under some form of control by the criminal justice system as a
whole.25
Alternative corrections also impose myriad fees, fines, and costs on
people caught in the criminal legal system. As this Article will explain,
criminal legal debt has life-altering consequences for individuals who cannot
afford to pay. Someone who fails to pay criminal justice debt could face the
loss of liberty: their probation could be revoked; suspended sentences could
be imposed; or the failure to pay high costs of probation and other treatment
programs (including required residential or out-patient treatment) could land
them in jail. People on probation and parole who fail to make payments on
criminal legal debt can also face harsh collateral consequences, including

19
See Avlana K. Eisenberg, Incarceration Incentives in the Decarceration Era, 69 VAND.
L. REV. 71, 86 (2016).
20
See INCORRECT CARE, supra note 17, at 5, 8.
21
See Ava Kofman, Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants into
Debt, N.Y. TIMES (July 3, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/magazine/digital-jailsurveillance.html, archived at https://perma.cc/7ZQP-6X3X.
22
See id.
23
See FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS, ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATION IN
A
NUTSHELL 1, https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/FS-Alternatives-in-a-Nutshell.pdf,
archived at https://perma.cc/SSL5-3KXX.
24
Joshua Holland, Private Prison Companies Are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration, THE NATION (Aug. 23, 2016), https://www.thenation.com/article/private-prison-companies-are-embracing-alternatives-to-incarceration/, archived at https://perma.cc/AMK5-TQ6V.
25
See id. (“Instead of moving people into the community, with some form of accountability,” the alternative corrections system may place “more and more people [ ]on ankle
monitors” or similar forms of state control “who would otherwise just be left alone.”)

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losing benefits such as Social Security, Electronic Benefit Transfer, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Section 8 housing.26
The following sections detail some of the worst abuses arising from the
treatment-industrial complex, including private probation companies, rehabilitation and halfway houses, work camps, diversion programs, and longterm civil commitment.
B. Private Probation Companies
Probation is a common alternative to incarceration, particularly for minor crimes and nonviolent offenses.27 The major goals of probation supervision are to provide rehabilitative services while ensuring that no further
offenses are committed.28 Misdemeanor probation, affecting a great number
of citizens, is frequently perceived as a kinder, gentler sentence than jail or
prison.29 The major goals of probation supervision are to provide rehabilitative services while ensuring that no further offenses are committed.30 Though
numbers vary by state, growing numbers of people are on some version of
probation.31 One in fifty-five U.S. adults, or nearly 2%, was on probation or
parole in 2016—a population increase of 239% since 1980.32
Ironically, probation has become a key driver of mass incarceration by
funneling many people under supervision back into prisons and jails.33 With
its long supervision terms, strict conditions, and intense surveillance, probation is neither as easy nor as beneficial as some legislators and policy makers
make it seem.34 Only about half of people who exit parole or probation do so
after successfully completing their supervision terms; the rest might be sen-

26
See Beth A. Colgan, Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause, 102 CAL. L. REV. 277, 293
(2014).
27
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, SET UP TO FAIL: THE IMPACT OF OFFENDER-FUNDED PRIVATE PROBATION FOR THE POOR 35 (Feb. 20, 2018), https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/20/
set-fail/impact-offender-funded-private-probation-poor, archived at https://perma.cc/S7JUQ9V5.
28
See id. at 2.
29
See Lewis Wallace, Welcome to Georgia, The Epicenter of the Private Probation
Racket, THE OUTLINE (Aug. 17, 2017), https://theoutline.com/post/2103/welcome-to-georgiathe-epicenter-of-the-private-probation-racket, archived at https://perma.cc/75TY-78FY.
30
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 2.
31
See WENDY SAWYER, PRISON POLICY INITIATIVE, PUNISHING POVERTY: THE HIGH COST
OF PROBATION FEES IN MASSACHUSETTS (Dec. 8, 2016), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/probation/ma_report.html, archived at https://perma.cc/Z42G-HSZ3. In 2015, one out of every fiftythree people was on probation or parole. See Too Big to Succeed: The Impact of the Growth of
Community Corrections and What Should Be Done About It, COLUMBIA JUSTICE LAB. 2 (Jan.
29, 2018), https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Too_Big_to_Succeed_Re
port_FINAL.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/QC8M-5QVY.
32
PEW TRUST, PROBATION AND PAROLE SYSTEMS MARKED BY HIGH STAKES, MISSED OPPORTUNITIES (Sept. 25, 2018), https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issuebriefs/2018/09/probation-and-parole-systems-marked-by-high-stakes-missed-opportunities,
archived at https://perma.cc/QSF2-XC97.
33
See Too Big to Succeed, supra note 31, at 7.
34
See JONES, supra note 7.

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tenced to jail or prison because their probation is revoked, or subject to continued supervision.35
A large percentage of misdemeanor probation sentences transform into
prolonged, expensive payment plans for those living around the poverty
line.36 Probation companies overtly characterize many of their supervision
programs as “offender-funded”: in other words, states shift costs to people
on probation and parole in the form of fees.37 As a result, people who are
sentenced to probation instead of jail time—as most misdemeanor defendants are—must pay heavily for the privilege.38 Many individuals convicted
of minor crimes, most of whom live at or under the poverty level, spend the
rest of their lives trying to pay off their criminal justice debt.39
Numerous courts have granted for-profit companies the right to supervise and collect fees from misdemeanor defendants.40 State and local governments contract out probation programs to private probation companies that
claim to inexpensively treat and rehabilitate defendants, while simultaneously keeping defendants out of costly state and local correctional facilities.41 Today, for-profit companies offer services such as drug testing,
addiction services, and behavioral-therapy courses42 to people who have
been released, all at little to no cost to local governments and courts.43 Forprofit companies have instead transferred the financial burden of probation
directly to people impacted by the criminal legal system, all while taking
their monetary cut.44
Local governments that use private probation services essentially turn
courts into debt-collection machines, with the profits going to the private
companies.45 States rarely regulate the fees charged by private probation

35

See id.
See Wallace, supra note 29.
37
See Sarah Stillman, Get Out of Jail, Inc., THE NEW YORKER (June 16, 2014), http://www
.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/get-out-of-jail-inc, archived at https://perma.cc/27ARGZMK; Too Big to Succeed, supra note 31, at 4.
38
See Tierney Sneed, Private Misdemeanor Probation Industry Faces New Scrutiny, U.S.
NEWS (Feb. 6, 2015), https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/06/private-misdemeanor-probation-industry-faces-new-scrutiny, archived at https://perma.cc/9TPH-RSQE.
39
See generally Appleman, Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration, supra note 14.
40
See Sharon Cohen, Poor Offenders Pay High Price When Probation Turns on Profit,
THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Mar. 12, 2016), http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/mar/12/
poor-offenders-pay-high-price-when-probation-turns/, archived at https://perma.cc/YYQ9SZVJ.
41
See Stillman, supra note 37.
42
For example, one private probation company in Alabama required offenders to attend a
course in “Moral Reconation Therapy,” which cost offenders $240. See Hannah Rappleye &
Lisa Riordan Seville, The Town That Turned Poverty into a Prison Sentence, THE NATION
(Mar. 14, 2014), https://www.thenation.com/article/town-turned-poverty-prison-sentence/,
archived at https://perma.cc/74P3-B5L8.
43
See Stillman, supra note 37.
44
See Laura I Appleman, Cashing in on Convicts: Privatization, Punishment, and the
People, 2018 UTAH L. REV. 579, 589–90 (2017).
45
See id.
36

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companies, allowing them to charge whatever amount they desire.46 User
charges for every aspect of probation, from required courses and treatment
programs to monitoring devices and drug testing, are private probation companies’ primary source of revenue.47 The companies go to disturbing lengths
to collect these fees—even requesting arrest warrants for those probationers
who cannot pay.48 For-profit companies thus prioritize their bottom line over
the best interest of the defendant.49
1. Pay-Only Probation
“Pay-only probation” similarly benefits private probation companies
and harms the people convicted of a crime.50 When someone on probation
cannot pay their fine in full, courts will sometimes place them on a probation
“term,” outsourcing the supervision and payment to a private probation
company.51 People on pay-only probation must pay the company the fine
owed to the state, plus interest and a supervision fee.52
The longer it takes to pay off criminal debts, the longer the probation
lasts. The longer someone is on probation, the more they pay in supervision
fees and the greater the threat of imprisonment if they default on their payments.53 In the end, people on probation often end up paying more in fees
than the original fine amount—and may face incarceration on top of their
fine.54 Every year, courts grant numerous arrest warrants on behalf of corrections companies, to track down poor people who have not fully paid their
private probation fees. These warrants bring probationers back to court for a
probation revocation hearing, serving as a pressure tactic to force payment
of the debt.55
In Bearden v. Georgia, the Supreme Court held that imprisoning a probationer who was unable to pay off his legal debts violated the Fourteenth
Amendment.56 However, the Bearden ruling was quite narrow, concluding
that an individual could be sentenced to imprisonment if they had the money
and were “willfully” refusing to pay.57 Bearden left the determination of an
individual’s financial ability to pay in the hands of judges, with fairly arbi46

See MIKAYLA COX, MARCUS HARRIS FOUND., MONETIZING FREEDOM THROUGH PRIPROBATION (Aug. 11, 2018), https://marcusharrisfoundation.org/blog/f/monetizing-freedom-through-private-probation, archived at https://perma.cc/Q5AF-347K.
47
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 55.
48
See id.
49
See Stillman, supra note 37.
50
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 3.
51
See Jessica Pishko, Locked Up for Being Poor, THE ATLANTIC (Feb. 25, 2015), http://
www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/02/locked-up-for-being-poor/386069/, archived at
https://perma.cc/K7SE-5JC7; HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 3.
52
See Pishko, supra note 51.
53
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 4, 17.
54
See id. at 32–33.
55
See id. at 2–4.
56
See Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 668–69, 672–73 (1983).
57
See id. at 668.

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trary results.58 Few courts even inquire into an individual’s ability to pay.59
Bearden has thus failed to protect impoverished individuals on probation
from abusive criminal legal debt collection.
2. Drug and Alcohol Testing
Many courts require that defendants sentenced to probation and treatment pay for the full costs of required services such as drug testing and
alcohol monitoring.60 Most private probation companies offer courses, treatment, and monitoring device services as a package, and profit when courts
mandate these services as conditions of probation.61
Even the cost of a single drug test, usually around $20,62 can be too
much for impoverished defendants—let alone long-term monitoring and
treatment.63 And it is almost never just a single drug test. Consider this illustrative example of how the drug testing business sets up misdemeanor defendants to fail: In Tennessee, Cindy Rodriguez pled guilty to shoplifting
and received a sentence of private probation for eleven months and twentynine days.64 She had to pay a $35–45 monthly supervision fee to her private
probation company, Providence Community Corrections—which also conducted random drug tests at $20 per test, even though she was not charged
with a drug-related offense.65 Every time Rodriguez met with her probation
officer, she was pressured to pay off her criminal justice debts.66 She ultimately returned to jail for inability to pay, losing her van and her apartment
as a result of the debt.67
In several states, many probationers are frequently and routinely tested
for drugs for the entire probationary term, even if their offense had nothing
to do with narcotics.68 In Alameda County, California, for example, commit-

58
See Joseph Shapiro, As Court Fees Rise, the Poor Are Paying the Price, NPR (May 19,
2014) https://www.npr.org/2014/05/19/312158516/increasing-court-fees-punish-the-poor,
archived at https://perma.cc/GW6G-9NY2.
59
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 81.
60
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, PROFITING FROM PROBATION: AMERICA’S “OFFENDERFUNDED” PROBATION INDUSTRY 33 (2014), https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/
us0214_ForUpload_0.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/FKR8-WPUF.
61
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 3.
62
Fees can vary widely among states and counties. In California, for example, drug and
alcohol tests costs range from $5 to $50 among different counties; the average cost is $20. See
TARA GAMBOA-EASTMAN, WESTERN CENT. ON LAW & POVERTY, THE PROBLEM WITH PROBATION: A STUDY OF THE ECONOMIC AND RACIAL IMPACT OF PROBATION FEES IN CALIFORNIA 9
(June 26, 2018), https://wclp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/TheProblemWithProbation_GamboaEastman_ForWCLP_Final.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/4TUY-XDD5.
63
See Cohen, supra note 40.
64
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 1–3.
65
See id.
66
See id.
67
See id.
68
See GAMBOA-EASTMAN, supra note 62, at 13.

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ting a crime in a “drug neighborhood” is often enough for drug testing to be
required during probation.69
When a defendant’s probation terms require participation in drug or alcohol treatment, the defendant is largely responsible for the cost.70 For example, someone convicted of a DUI in Florida is likely to see their license
revoked.71 To have their driver’s license reinstated after a DUI conviction,
they must complete a costly course called “DUI school.” Sometimes DUI
school is even a condition of probation.72 In one Florida county, DUI school
costs $284 for a first offense and $430 for a second.73 Some DUI defendants
also need to take a Victim Impact Panel course, which costs an additional
$49.99.74 In Missouri, DUI defendants may be required to take a Substance
Abuse Traffic Offender Program (“SATOP”) to regain their licenses.75 The
SATOP initial assessment is $375, and is a precursor to other required programs such as the basic education program, which costs $130, or the intensive program, which costs $1500.76
When someone on probation tests positive for drugs, private probation
companies can benefit even further. In Missouri, for example, Private Correctional Services requires probationers who have previously tested positive
to enroll in an intensive drug testing program, which entails calling a hotline
each morning to check whether they were selected to be tested.77 Probationers are tested anywhere from several times a month to several times a week
at $20–$50 per test, depending on the testing facility.78
3. Long-term Private Monitoring
Longer-term private monitoring, in which an impacted person is electronically tracked for months at a time, is also expensive. According to
Human Rights Watch, fees for devices like ankle monitors and other electronic tracking tools can range from $400 to $500 per month, plus an initial
start-up fee of $50 to $150, varying by location.79 These costs usually fall on
the system-involved individual, as states and municipalities are unlikely to
foot the bill themselves. These costs add up, making it even more difficult
for low-income probationers to routinely pay the fees and remain on the

69

See
See
71
See
72
Id.
73
Id.
74
See
75
See
76
See
77
See
78
See
79
See
70

id.
Colgan, supra note 26, at 288.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 23.
id. at 43.
id.
id.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 42.
id.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27, at 44.

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outside.80 Moreover, the electronic monitors are uncomfortable, and make
many aspects of everyday life difficult.81
Georgia, for example, requires some people on probation to wear an
ankle bracelet known as the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor
(“SCRAMX”).82 The monitors, which measure sweat for evidence of alcohol, are very costly for individuals required to wear them. To use a
SCRAMX monitor, private probation companies demand a $50 setup fee, a
$39 per month supervision fee, and setting up a landline in the defendant’s
home—costs that can total over $400 a month.83
One of the worst offenders in the private probation world was Sentinel
Offender Services.84 Fred Slider, a former Sentinel client, illustrates the
abuses he faced under the supervision of this private probation company.
Slider was assigned to Sentinel’s private probation after being charged with
three offenses over the course of two years: failure to stop at a stop sign,
driving without a license, and a DUI.85 At the outset, Slider’s fines totaled
$3,385, and Sentinel was simply supposed to ensure that the fines were
paid.86 Instead, Sentinel hobbled Slider with a bulky ankle bracelet to check
his sweat for alcohol every half hour, even though his probation didn’t forbid
him from drinking.87 The cost for the device was $330 a month, which was
added to the $708 per month required to pay his fines.88 Ultimately, unable
to pay his fees, Slider ended up back in court in late 2015 over non-payment
and a monitoring violation, which sent him back to jail.89
Sentinel was ultimately driven out of business after Georgia prohibited
for-profit probation companies from charging “more than three months of
fees to people who were only on probation because they could not pay a
fine.”90 However, there are still plenty of other private probation companies
to take its place.91 Twenty-nine separate private probation companies still

80

See id.
See Shannon Heffernan, Bill Would Drastically Reduce Use of Electronic Monitors in
Illinois, NPR (Apr. 29, 2019), https://www.npr.org/local/309/2019/04/29/717555796/billwould-drastically-reduce-the-use-of-electronic-monitors-in-illinois, archived at https://perma
.cc/JK88-7QDN.
82
See Joseph Shapiro, Measures Aimed at Keeping People Out of Jail Punish the Poor,
NPR (May 24, 2014), http://www.npr.org/2014/05/24/314866421/measures-aimed-at-keepingpeople-out-ofjail-punish-the-poor, archived at https://perma.cc/C8SL-HEXH.
83
See id.
84
See Wallace, supra note 29.
85
See id.
86
See id.
87
See id.
88
See id.
89
See id.
90
See Beth Schwartzapfel, Probation-for-Profit Just Got Less Profitable, THE MARSHALL
PROJECT (Apr. 13, 2017), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/04/13/probation-for-profitjust-got-less-profitable, archived at https://perma.cc/74N2-HSLK.
91
See id.
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operate in the state of Georgia alone,92 attesting to the profitability of such
services.
Private corrections companies are investing heavily in probation. GEO
Group currently provides both treatment programs and community reentry
services.93 In 2011, GEO Group purchased a large electronic-monitoring
firm, BI Incorporated, for $415 million.94 Similarly, Correctional Healthcare
Companies acquired Judicial Correction Services in 2011, providing precustody, in custody, and post-custody services.95
Private probation companies offer a wide array of “services” to the
courts, including drug treatment courses, probation monitoring, electronic
ankle monitors,96 behavior classes and even domestic violence classes.97
These for-profit companies also help oversee community service requirements and halfway houses.98 Halfway houses, which are frequently a
mandatory part of a defendant’s post-release sentence, often require that the
resident purchase an insurance policy from a private actor for the duration of
their stay.99
C. Drug Rehabilitation and Halfway Houses
For-profit corrections companies have aggressively expanded into the
world of alternate corrections, including halfway houses and rehabilitation
programs.100 The private companies running alternative corrections are often
the same entities that oversee private prisons, have similar profit motives,
and frequently use the same business models.101
Both transitional and treatment service obligations have been increasingly farmed out to nongovernmental residential facilities run by privately
held, for-profit companies.102 Agencies such as state parole and probation
92

See id.
See Stillman, supra note 37.
94
See id.
95
See id.
96
Private corrections companies have rapidly expanded into all aspects of probation regulation. In 2015, GEO Group purchased Soberlink, Inc., which describes its services as “accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol system.” About Soberlink,
SOBERLINK, https://www.soberlink.com/about-us/, archived at https://perma.cc/Y5RW-GPUA.
Soberlink makes smartphone breathalyzer tests complete with facial recognition and wireless
connectivity. All of this technology just makes it easier for for-profit companies to control the
entire probation process—often at a substantial cost to the offender.
97
See Wallace, supra note 29.
98
See Appleman, Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration, supra note 14, at 1497.
99
See id. See also Wayne A. Logan & Ronald F. Wright, Mercenary Criminal Justice,
2014 U. ILL. L. REV. 1175, 1193 (2014) (noting that private insurance may be required under
community service sentences as well).
100
See Verdugo, supra note 11.
101
See Joshua Holland, Private Prison Companies Are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration, The Nation (Aug. 23, 2016), https://www.thenation.com/article/private-prison-companies-are-embracing-alternatives-to-incarceration/, archived at https://perma.cc/UV3WBTM2.
102
See Ostermann & Hyatt, supra note 15, at 1308–09.
93

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boards, unable to provide a full range of reentry assistance or therapeutic
programming, look to these external service providers to fill in the gap.103
1. Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation are big business. In recent years, private
equity investors have invested heavily in companies that provide treatment
and rehabilitation.104 For-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation companies
seek to take advantage of the opioid epidemic, shrinking jail and prison
populations,105 and progressive advocacy for treatment over incarceration.106
Some states, like California, now divert people convicted in drug court
to treatment programs rather than sending them to prison.107 Lawmakers and
advocates may intend for diversion programs to be progressive and anticarceral.108 However, these reforms fall short of progressive goals: because
of the treatment-industrial complex, people sentenced to treatment rather
than incarceration still remain hostage to the state. Residents of court-mandated treatment facilities face daily medical bills, covering everything from
detoxification monitoring to psychological counseling.109
The bills from for-profit addiction rehabilitation centers can run into the
hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient.110 People sentenced to treatment centers are often forced to declare bankruptcy; parents report taking
out second and third mortgages to finance their child’s court-mandated treatment.111 Moreover, these largely unregulated recovery centers have a pattern
of financial abuse that ends up costing millions, coming from both public
and private pockets.112

103

See id. at 1310.
See Deborah Becker, The Opioid Treatment Business is Booming, WBUR (Mar. 1,
2016), https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2016/03/01/opioid-treatment-business, archived
at https://perma.cc/76ZV-K5ZD.
105
See Nicole Lewis, The U.S. Prison Population is Shrinking, THE MARSHALL PROJECT
(Apr. 24, 2019), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/04/24/the-us-prison-population-isshrinking, archived at https://perma.cc/RDV5-B7E7.
106
See Teri Sforza et al., How Some Southern California Drug Rehab Centers Exploit
Addiction, ORANGE CTY. REGISTER (Nov. 5, 2018), https://www.ocregister.com/2017/05/21/
how-some-southern-california-drug-rehab-centers-exploit-addiction/, archived at https://perma
.cc/E6CJ-6YY2.
107
See, e.g., Cal. Penal Code §§ 1210(a)—(d); 3063.1 (establishing alternative form of
sentencing for persons found guilty of drug crime offense, calling for qualifying drug defendants to have criminal charges or convictions dismissed if they can successfully complete courtapproved drug treatment programs).
108
See Don Thompson, California Lawmakers Continue Shift from Mass Incarceration,
U.S. NEWS (Sept. 9, 2018), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/California/articles/201809-09/California-lawmakers-continue-shift-from-mass-incarceration, archived at https://perma
.cc/5VJY-NGCB.
109
See Sforza et al., supra note 106.
110
See id.
111
See id.
112
See Sforza et al., supra note 106.
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The private corrections industry has begun investing in rehabilitation
and treatment services, recognizing a relatively unregulated growth area. In
New England, for-profit treatment centers create hundreds of new treatment
beds every year.113 Recovery Centers of America, among other for-profit
companies, is investing in addiction treatment and recovery centers.114
American Addiction Centers, one of the largest treatment and recovery companies, was the first business focused solely on addiction to go public, raising $75 million in an IPO in 2015.115
Since 2005, private corrections companies have also collectively spent
over $680 million buying halfway houses and residential re-entry services.116
These private companies have little to no government oversight, and are required to seek profit by their very organizational structure.117 For example, in
2013, CCA (now CoreCivic) purchased Correctional Alternatives, a company specializing in prisoner re-entry programs such as treatment programs,
work furloughs, and home confinement.118 GEO Group now owns a variety
of “community re-entry services” and treatment programs, having purchased the country’s largest electronic-monitoring firm, BI Incorporated, in
2011.119 CoreCivic has recently acquired halfway houses in Georgia, North
Carolina, and Colorado for nearly $22 million.120
Although sometimes state governments will foot the bill for defendants’
often-mandatory addiction treatment program, states increasingly require defendants to pay at least part of the cost themselves. In Tennessee, the list of
approved transitional or halfway houses all require either a deposit, a weekly
or monthly fee, or both.121 Likewise, in Florida, approximately 20% of all
residents pay for some of their treatment in halfway houses or other community corrections institutions.122 Georgia requires all residents in its transi-

113

See Becker, supra note 104.
See id.
115
See id.
116
See Jeremy Mohler, Keep Private Industry Out of Prison Reform, USA TODAY (Jan. 4,
2017), https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/policing/spotlight/2017/01/04/keep-private-industry-out-prisoner-reform-column/96118228/, archived at https://perma.cc/6J6L-M6JR.
117
See Steve Coll, The Jail Health-Care Crisis, THE NEW YORKER (Feb. 25, 2019), https://
www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/04/the-jail-health-care-crisis, archived at https://per
ma.cc/9RR4-53T4.
118
See David Seagal, Prison Vendors See Continued Signs of a Captive Market, N.Y.
TIMES (Aug. 29, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/business/prison-vendors-see-continued-signs-of-a-captive-market.html, archived at https://perma.cc/P7SK-XEC6.
119
See Stillman, supra note 37.
120
See Geert de Lombaerde, CoreCivic Buys Halfway Houses in Three States, NASHVILLE
POST (Nov. 9, 2017), https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/area-stocks/article/20982163/
corecivic-buys-halfway-houses-in-three-states, archived at https://perma.cc/GGQ2-CKNE.
121
See TENN. DEP’T OF CORR., APPROVED TRANSITIONAL HOUSING PROVIDER LIST (May
10, 2019), https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/correction/documents/TransitionalHousingList
.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/EF7F-MMAB.
122
See Karol Lucken, Privatizing Discretion: “Rehabilitating” Treatment in Community
Corrections, 43 CRIME & DELINQUENCY 243, 250 (1997).

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tional centers to pay a portion of their wages for room and board.123 The
federal system requires a defendant to pay a halfway house fee that is 25%
of the defendant’s gross income.124
When a court orders more intensive treatment—such as residential
treatment—the defendant is usually financially responsible.125 Often state
and local regulations are very vague and do not define when a court should
order intensive rehabilitation treatment.126 For example, one Missouri defendant was ordered to undergo inpatient alcohol treatment, even though his
monitor showed minimal alcohol consumption over the previous sixteen
months: because his monitor results did not show that he abused alcohol, no
treatment center would accept the probationer, thus causing him to violate
his probation order.127
Proponents of such outsourcing tout cost effectiveness, net capacity,
and efficiency of such private, for-profit facilities. But in reality, these supposed benefits come at great human cost.128 Private treatment facilities use
different techniques than the public sector in order to maintain profitability.129 As a result, “[i]ndividual-level reductions in recidivism or behavioral
change, which are notoriously difficult to measure consistently, are replaced
with market-based factors (such as price, location, capacity, and pseudo-outcomes like discharges and escapes), as the primary outcomes of interest.”130
In addition, private, for-profit halfway houses and treatment facilities
do a poorer job of reinforcing the stricter standards of behavior fostered by
more traditional, treatment-based approaches, because more rigorous treatment programs simply cost more money to implement.131 Further, halfway
houses and other addiction treatment centers are plagued by systemic fraud
and abuse.132 Practices such as extremely high billing for simple urine tests,
combined with fraudulent practices that extract millions of dollars from both
individuals and insurance companies, have led to a virtual Wild West of
unregulated treatment.133
123
See Transitional Centers, GA. DEP’T OF CORR., http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/
Facilities/Transitional, archived at https://perma.cc/7FBC-CLE4.
124
See FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS, FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT FEDERAL HALFWAY HOUSES & HOME CONFINEMENT 5 (Apr. 24, 2012), https://famm
.org/wp-content/uploads/FAQ-Halfway-House-4.24.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/Y77M9EL5.
125
See id. See also MO. STAT. § 478.005 (1)—(3) (2018) (“Each treatment court within a
treatment court division shall establish criteria upon which a person is deemed eligible for that
specific treatment court and for determining successful completion of the treatment court
program.”).
126
See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 27 at 43.
127
See id. at 23.
128
Ostermann & Hyatt, supra note 15, at 1310.
129
See id.
130
Id. at 1312.
131
Id. at 1313.
132
See Zachary Rothenberg, Trends in Combating Fraud and Abuse in Substance Use
Disorder Treatment, 20 J. HEALTH CARE COMPLIANCE 13, 14 (2018).
133
See id.

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One infamous private, for-profit company, Community Education Centers (“CEC”), runs 30% of all halfway houses nationwide.134 The recidivism
rate for inmates graduating from their halfway houses hovers around 67%.135
At least eight residents of CEC’s halfway houses died from drug overdoses
from 2016 to 2017.136
New Jersey’s experience with CEC is an illuminating example. In the
1990s, CEC took over New Jersey’s prisoner re-entry and halfway houses.137
The result was client neglect, abuse, and outright chaos.138 About 10,000
people leaving prison or on parole in New Jersey were assigned to halfway
houses, and CEC controlled most of those facilities.139 Conditions were abysmal—far worse than those in halfway houses run by the state. Life within
the centers was dangerous and unregulated; gang activity and assaults often
went unchecked.140 Within just two years, 185 people ran away from the
residences.141
CEC halfway houses across the country still have inhumane conditions
today. In 2011, an Indiana CEC resident died from untreated pregnancy
complications.142 CEC-run halfway house residents in Colorado described
assaults, gang violence and rampant drug use.143 Administrators in Colorado’s largest halfway house also staged fake classes during inspections,
bribing residents with candy bars if they would fake participation in counseling and job placement sessions.144
In 2015, California hired CEC to oversee the expansion of the state’s
halfway houses to accommodate an increase in people newly released from
prison.145 CEC halfway houses are supposed to provide secure housing, job
placement, and other social services for people on parole as they prepare to

134

LAUREN SUKIN, THE CENTURY FOUND., WHEN JAIL IS THE BETTER OPTION: THE FAILHALFWAY HOUSES (June 23, 2015), https://tcf.org/content/commentary/when-jail-isthe-better-option-the-failure-of-halfway-houses/, archived at HTTPS://PERMA.CC/KGK4-SJ2C.
135
See id.
136
See Lydia O’Neal, As the Criminal Justice System Changes, So Does a Private Prison
Giant, INTER’L BUS. TIMES (Dec. 5, 2017), https://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/criminaljustice-system-changes-so-does-private-prison-giant-2623569, archived at HTTPS://PERMA.CC/
X4VK-NLE2.
137
See Sam Dolnick, As Escapees Stream Out, a Penal Business Thrives, N.Y. TIMES
(June 16, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/nyregion/in-new-jersey-halfway-housesescapees-stream-out-as-a-penal-business-thrives.html, archived at HTTPS://PERMA.CC/7G6386RE.
138
Id.
139
Id.
140
Id.
141
Id.
142
Id.
143
Anat Rubin, A Record of Trouble, THE MARSHALL PROJECT (Apr. 11, 2015), https://
www.themarshallproject.org/2015/04/11/a-record-of-trouble, archived at https://perma.cc/
QU3Q-ZV5S.
144
Id.
145
Anat Rubin, California Relies on Halfway House Operator with Troubled Past, SFGATE (Apr. 11, 2015), https://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/California-relies-on-halfwayhouse-operator-with-6193752.php, archived at HTTPS://PERMA.CC/Q7AX-674J.
URE OF

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return to society.146 The state signed a contract despite the fact that, shortly
beforehand, CEC had lost a preexisting contract to supervise halfway houses
in Long Beach, California.147 Long Beach cited systemic failures, including
inadequate clinical programs, persistent violence, and drug and alcohol
abuse by residents.148 Even when residents failed drug testing, CEC did not
discharge them in order to keep beds full.149 Nonetheless, California rehired
CEC on a $30 million contract to arrange housing, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services for people returning from incarceration to
Los Angeles County.150
CEC is one of many private, for-profit halfway houses with abysmal
track records in safety and rehabilitation. For example, at Avalon Correctional Services, one of the country’s largest for-profit halfway house companies, guards notoriously staged fights in which halfway house residents were
forced to brawl until blood was shed.151 The fights were allegedly driven by
the company’s bottom line: instead of punishing residents by returning them
to state corrections, which would cost Avalon money, facility administrators
relied on “informal discipline” to ensure that defendants remained at the
halfway house, making more money for the company.152 Several female inmates have also sued Avalon for sexual abuse during work-release, alleging
that their complaints were ignored by administrators.153
The for-profit addiction treatment industry (of which halfway houses
are simply one lucrative part) has exploded in the last ten years, expanding
to include residential rehabilitation programs, outpatient facilities, drug and
alcohol counseling, and sober living housing.154 The growth in the addiction
treatment industry has been driven by the increase in opioid-based substance
abuse disorders.155 As opioid use has continued to grow, an influx of addiction treatment programs have opened their doors in response.156 Further,
there are many people in need of drug treatment and rehabilitation once they
have been released—incarcerated people receive little treatment while imprisoned, and often revert back to drug use upon release.157 Approximately
58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates have a substance
use disorder, compared to 5% of the general population.158 Of these individu146

Id.
See id.
148
See id.
149
See id.
150
Id.
151
Stillman, supra note 37, at 16.
152
Id.
153
Id.
154
See Rothenberg, supra note 132, at 13.
155
Id.
156
See Danielle L. Liberman, Not Too Sunny in the Sunshine State: The Need to Improve
Florida’s Opioid Abuse Treatment Centers to Combat the National Public Health Crisis, 31
GEO. J. LEGAL ETHICS 723, 732 (2018).
157
See O’Neal, supra note 136.
158
Id.
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als, 25% reported repeatedly using heroin or opiates.159 Today, substance
abuse treatment is a vastly profitable business, with profits of approximately
$34 billion per year, which is likely to increase over time.160
The criminal legal system as a whole treats drug and alcohol addiction
as a problem that requires treatment as a measure of social control, with little
focus on an defendant’s rehabilitation or well-being.161 This emphasis has
consequences for the kind of rehabilitative treatment that defendants receive.162 “Balanced against medical constructs of addictive illness, addictions treatment emerges, much like the criminal justice system, as a
fragmented approach to status and conduct, rehabilitation and retribution,
and, finally, compassion and punishment.”163 Defendants are invariably
blamed if addiction treatment fails, then may face drastic consequences in
the form of probation violation, re-arrest, and even imprisonment.164 The
criminal legal system views relapse not as a medical problem but as a refusal
to follow the law, so typically addresses it with increased criminal
sanctions.165
The privatization and profit motives of residential treatment centers and
halfway houses thus harms people with substance use disorders. The companies’ incentives are to control both costs and people as much as possible,
while spending as little as feasible.166 Their primary concerns are executive
salaries, shareholder returns, lobbying expenditures, and campaign expenditures, but not the residents themselves.167 Thus, for-profit corrections companies waste an important opportunity to help people with substance use
disorders recover, while imposing punitive costs on other people involved in
the criminal legal system.
2. Rehabilitation in Free Labor: Forced Labor as Treatment
As an alternative to incarceration, some drug courts direct defendants to
serve as unpaid labor in rehabilitation centers that are “little more than lucrative work camps for private industry.”168 These faux rehabilitation centers, which are located all over the country, force people to labor for a wide
159

Id.
Id.
Cf. Sarah Lustbader, Should Relapse Be Treated Like A Crime?, THE APPEAL (Oct. 25,
2019), https://theappeal.org/should-relapse-be-treated-like-a-crime/, archived at https://perma
.cc/2VGW-KE45.
162
See id.
163
Id. at 310.
164
Id. at 337—38.
165
Marsha Weissman, The Criminal-Involved Drug Addict: Public Policy and Sentencing
Advocacy, in NAT’L CONFERENCE OF SENTENCING ADVOCACY 179, 185—86 (1991).?
166
See O’Neal, supra note 136.
167
See id.
168
Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, They Thought They Were Going to Rehab. They
Ended Up in Chicken Plants, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Oct. 4, 2017), https://www
.revealnews.org/article/they-thought-they-were-going-to-rehab-they-ended-up-in-chickenplants/, archived at https://perma.cc/NL7Z-P9WG.
160
161

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range of companies, from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies.169
Many of these rehabilitation work camps do not pay people serving their
sentences at the camps, forcing them to work for free to ensure they stay out
of jail or prison.170
Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (“CAAIR”), an
Oklahoma-based rehabilitation program, provides just one disturbing example. Defendants are sent to CAAIR’s so-called rehabilitation program in lieu
of jail time.171 CAAIR’s model is quite simple: it requires participating defendants to work full-time in chicken plants for no pay.172 Approximately
200 men live at a northeastern Oklahoma CAAIR campus, many working
full time at Simmons Foods Inc. slaughtering and processing chickens for
some of America’s largest retailers and restaurants.173 Other chicken plants
that use CAAIR labor include Tyson and Crystal Lake Foods.174 Work at the
Simmons chicken plant is dangerous, with long hours and brutal conditions.175 Workers commonly suffer acid burns, machine injuries, and bacterial infections.176 If workers get hurt or work too slowly, CAAIR supervisors
threaten them with prison—a threat they have not hesitated to carry out numerous times in the past.177
Rather than providing effective substance abuse treatment, CAAIR
“treats” people sentenced to its work camps with “work and prayer.”178
Drug courts in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri send defendants to
the CAAIR work camps, where the men receive a bed, meals, Alcoholics
Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and the occasional meeting
with a counselor or class on anger management or parenting.179 Church attendance is required the first four months of residence.180 Probationers are
forbidden to have a cellphone or any money.181 CAAIR only has one properly licensed counselor per work camp, has no trained medical staff, and
forbids psychiatric medicine.182 Many probationers experienced withdrawal
169
See id. As the authors note, offenders have worked everywhere from a Coca-Cola
bottling plant in Oklahoma, to a construction firm in Alabama, to a nursing home in North
Carolina. See id.
170
See id.
171
See id.
172
See id.
173
See id.
174
See Oklahoma Rehab Facility as Alternative for Prison is a Slave Labor Camp for
Poultry Industry, DAILY KOS (Oct. 4, 2017), https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/10/4/
1704119/-Oklahoma-Rehab-Facility-As-Alternative-For-Prison-Is-Just-A-Slave-Labor-CampFor-Poultry-Indust, archived at https://perma.cc/9RLB-BP8T.
175
See Harris & Walter, Chicken Plants, supra note 168.
176
See id.
177
See id.
178
See Cory Doctorow, Prisoners Sent to Christian “Rehab” Diversion Programs Find
Themselves in Forced-Labor Camps, BOING BOING (Oct. 5, 2017), https://boingboing.net/
2017/10/05/exactly-what-jesus-would-do.html, archived at https://perma.cc/7MCW-T5B3.
179
See Harris & Walter, Chicken Plants, supra note 168.
180
See id.
181
See Oklahoma Rehab Facility, supra note 174.
182
See id.

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symptoms and other serious health issues after being unable to access prescribed treatment and needed medical care.183
Under these harsh conditions, few people sentenced to the work camp
successfully complete their so-called rehabilitation. In 2014, only 26% completed CAAIR’s recovery program.184 If people forced to work at CAAIR do
manage to make it through their term—and without any problems or “bad
behavior”—the only compensation these workers receive is a $1,000 payment.185 Even when workers get injured, CAAIR files their workers-comp
claims—but keeps the money for itself.186 Although former participants have
filed two federal lawsuits against CAAIR for violations of labor law, human
trafficking, and racketeering, CAAIR is still in operation.187 Along with
CAAIR, there are at least four other work camps/recovery programs that
accept defendants from drug courts and require them to work in dangerous
chicken processing factories without recompense.188
North Carolina’s Recovery Connections Community, a drug recovery
program, uses a scheme similar to CAAIR’s indentured servitude program.
Recovery Connections Community is an unlicensed, non-profit rehabilitation program for people who need drug rehabilitation, including many defendants sentenced from drug courts as part of their plea agreements.189
Clients were promised counseling and drug addiction recovery, but were instead sent to work at various adult care homes for the elderly and disabled
for sixteen hour shifts.190 Clients working as personal care aides were almost
completely untrained and were not licensed to dispense medication.191 Some
were tasked with dispensing the very prescription drugs which they were
addicted to, and ended up stealing the patients’ medicine.192 None were paid

183

See id.
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, Rehab or Work Camp? Addicts Labor for
Business, COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Oct. 7, 2017), https://www.dispatch.com/news/20171007/
rehab-or-work-camp-addicts-labor-for-businesses, archived at https://perma.cc/3YG4-HHHY.
185
See Harris & Walter, supra note 168.
186
See id.
187
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, Rehab Work Camps in Oklahoma Were
About to be Regulated. Then a Friend at the Capitol Stepped In, TULSA WORLD (Oct. 17,
2017), https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/state-and-regional/rehab-work-camps-in-oklahomawere-about-to-be-regulated/article_74bc3885-baf9-5317-b05c-220747f5583f.html, archived at
https://perma.cc/2M9Y-92KW.
188
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, These Are the Rehabs That Make People
Work in Chicken Plants, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Oct. 5, 2017), https://www
.revealnews.org/blog/these-are-the-rehabs-that-make-people-work-in-chicken-plants/, archived
at https://perma.cc/KCZ7-UZYJ.
189
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, All Work. No Pay: She Said She’d Free Them
from Addiction. She Turned Them into Her Personal Servants, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (May 21, 2018), https://www.revealnews.org/article/drug-users-got-exploited-disabled-patients-got-hurt-one-woman-benefited-from-it-all/, archived at https://perma.cc/E75DMR48.
190
See id.
191
See id.
192
See id.
184

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for their work.193 The only therapy provided were sessions in which the program’s founder would assemble participants and have each client take a turn
being screamed at by the other participants.194 After numerous allegations
and investigations, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety finally
banned its probation officers from sending probationers to Recovery Connections Community in May of 2018.195 Several investigations into Recovery
Connections are now pending in the state of North Carolina.196
Another work camp, the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program
(“DARP”), sends drug defendants and probationers to work at a plastics
factory owned by Arkansas State Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren.197
Working in the plastics factory can be dangerous; workers routinely risk
serious burns from molten plastic.198 Because DARP has continually refused
to pay its workers minimum wage, the Arkansas Department of Community
Correction revoked the program’s license to house people on parole.199 Nonetheless, DARP is still in operation and Arkansas courts continue to sentence
people to the program.200 In October 2017, the Oklahoma ACLU filed a class
action lawsuit against DARP, alleging a human trafficking scheme and various labor violations.201 The suit claims that the DARP participants were minimally fed, were denied payment for their work, were housed in unsuitable
conditions, and received no drug or alcohol treatment.202
Another exploitative rehabilitation work camp is owned by a retired
drug court judge. For the past ten years, retired Oklahoma Judge Thomas
Landrith has volunteered on the drug court while running his own rehabilitative work camp, Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery (“SOAR”).203
SOAR claims to provide a “therapeutic work program for men who have

193

See id.
See id.
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, Response to NC Rehab Investigation: ‘This
Is a Horrific Scheme That Preys on People at Their Lowest’, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (May 21, 2018), https://www.revealnews.org/blog/impact-officials-take-action-on-rehabwork-camp-in-response-to-reveal-investigation/, archived at https://perma.cc/RX35-2QMV.
196
See id.
197
See Amy Julia Harris, Top Arkansas Politician Uses Labor from Rehab Work Camp,
KGOU (Oct. 31, 2017), https://www.kgou.org/post/top-arkansas-politician-uses-labor-rehabwork-camp, archived at https://perma.cc/K53Q-Q8SB.
198
See id.
199
See id.
200
See id.
201
See Norrid v. D.A.R.P., No. 17-CIV-401-RAW, 2018 WL 2977384, at *1 (E.D. Okla.
June 13, 2018). See also Fochtman v. CAAIR, Inc., No. 5:17-CV-5228, 2018 WL 1092345, at
*3 (W.D. Ark. Feb. 27, 2018); Jessica Remer, ACLU Files Suit Against Oklahoma, Arkansas
Rehab Program Calling It Slave Labor, KTUL (Nov. 1, 2017), https://ktul.com/news/local/
aclu-files-suit-against-oklahoma-arkansas-rehab-program-calling-it-an-unpaid-labor-camp,
archived at https://perma.cc/WVJ8-6WW7.
202
See Remer, supra note 201.
203
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, Inside a Judge’s Rehab: Unpaid Work at a
Local Coca-Cola Plant, CENT. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Dec. 4, 2017), https://www
.revealnews.org/article/inside-a-judges-rehab-unpaid-work-at-a-local-coca-cola-plant/,
archived at https://perma.cc/43S9-EZ4F.
194
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been convicted of drug and alcohol offenses,” working with drug courts “to
place people in jobs rather than in jail or prison.”204 In reality, defendants
assigned to SOAR work without pay for factories,205 including the local
Coca-Cola bottling plant and a local car wash—and if they refuse, incarceration is the only alternative.206 Like the work programs detailed above, the
only rehabilitative aspects of SOAR are weekly group counseling sessions
and twice-weekly church services.207 Clients are eligible for a mere $500
stipend at the end of the six-month course if they do not break any rules.208
In addition, SOAR applied for food stamp cards on behalf of each participant, and then confiscated the benefits to buy food for the entire rehabilitative program.209 The Oklahoma Department of Human Services considers
this kind of food stamp use fraudulent.210 After the media revealed SOAR’s
practices, Coca-Cola suspended its use of SOAR workers, and the program’s
alleged food stamp theft is currently being investigated; otherwise, SOAR is
still operating as a recovery/rehabilitation program in the state of
Oklahoma.211
The Cenikor Foundation, a nationally known drug rehabilitation center
based in Texas and Louisiana, has sent thousands of people to grueling work
sites such as oil refineries, oil platforms, and Walmart warehouses without
air-conditioning.212 A variety of subcontractors dispatch Cenikor rehabilitation clients to major companies with minimal training, protective equipment,
or job preparation.213 On the job, many workers lack proper supervision, resulting in routine injuries; nearly two dozen men have suffered serious injuries on site.214 Many of the workers labor eighty hours a week, leaving
minimal time for required therapy, and counselors falsify their therapy
records.215
204
See The Program, SOUTHERN OKLA. ADDICTION RECOVERY, http://www.soarrehab.org/
theprogram, archived at https://perma.cc/7HBE-6XGT.
205
The women assigned to SOAR are paid for their work, but the men are not. See Harris
& Walter, Inside a Judge’s Rehab, supra note 203.
206
See id.
207
See id.
208
See id.
209
See id.
210
See When Forced Labor Masquerades as Rehab, OMAHA WORLD HERALD (Dec. 31,
2017), https://www.omaha.com/eedition/sunrise/articles/when-forced-labor-masquerades-asrehab/article_5d896d34-baf7-54ac-8464-d5890444346a.html, archived at https://perma.cc/
2TY4-D9P7.
211
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, Response to Work Camp Investigation:
‘Nothing Short of Slavery’, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Oct. 4, 2017), https://www
.revealnews.org/blog/response-to-labor-camp-investigation-i-cant-imagine-how-this-is-legal/,
archived at https://perma.cc/WE4M-D49P.
212
See Amy Julia Harris & Shoshana Walter, They Worked in Sweltering Heat for Exxon,
Shell and Walmart. They Didn’t Get Paid a Dime, CTR. FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Apr.
24, 2019), https://www.revealnews.org/article/they-worked-in-sweltering-heat-for-exxonshell-and-walmart-they-didnt-get-paid-a-dime/, archived at https://perma.cc/4GQT-G6ZB.
213
See id.
214
See id.
215
See id

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In theory, Cenikor’s program may seem better than prison; after 18
months participation, clients can begin receiving wages and can graduate
with employment, a car and the ability to restart their lives.216 But fewer than
8% of Cenikor’s clients graduate the program.217 Like other for-profit rehabilitation programs, workers received no payment for their grueling hours of
labor.218
In part, drug courts send defendants to work camp rehabilitation and
recovery centers, like CAAIR and Recovery Connections, due to the lack of
beds in other, more reputable alternatives.219 States and counties could limit
these egregious abuses by providing more spaces in legitimate rehabilitation
and recovery services for those who need them.
D. Mental Illness and Forensic Mental Healthcare
The need for so-called “forensic health services”—mental health treatment within the criminal legal system—is growing.220 Forensic mental
healthcare formally refers to criminal court-ordered mental health treatment
or commitment, and includes those individuals found incompetent to stand
trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.221 As the number of individuals with
mental illnesses in the criminal justice system has increased, so too has the
need for various treatment centers and hospitals for defendants. Private
prison companies are exploiting this need by rebranding themselves as “humane treatment providers,”222 including by expanding into mental health and
civil commitment centers.223 As investor-owned enterprises, for-profit medical companies prioritize maximizing profits and stock prices, often advancing shareholder interests even at the expense of patient needs.224
In 2019, approximately 22,000 forensic patients were civilly detained
through involuntary commitment.225 Many people held in involuntary commitment had not yet been convicted: approximately 9,000 were being evaluated pre-trial or treated for incompetency to stand trial.226 Six thousand
people detained in involuntary commitment were found not guilty by reason
of insanity, or guilty but mentally ill.227 Some will be detained indefi216

See id.
See id.
218
See Harris & Walter, Exxon, Shell and Walmart, supra note 212.
219
See Harris & Walter, Chicken Plants, supra note 168.
220
See Graziani & Cole, Incorrect Care, supra note 17, at 2.
221
See id.
222
See id. at 3.
223
See id.
224
See E. FULLER TORREY ET AL., MENTAL ILLNESS POLICY ORG, FRAUD, WASTE AND
EXCESS PROFITS: THE FATE OF MONEY INTENDED TO TREAT PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS MENTAL
ILLNESS 29 (Nov. 18, 2015), https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/wastereport
.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/E634-26JN.
225
See Sawyer & Wagner, supra note 3.
226
See id.
227
See id.
217

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nitely.228 In 2019, 6,000 people convicted of sex crimes were either involuntarily committed or detained after completing their prison sentences.229
Despite being involuntarily committed, people detained in forensic
mental healthcare centers must sometimes pay for some of the cost of their
(civil) incarceration. In Oregon, for example, the state looks at an involuntarily committed individual’s income, property, and resources to determine
whether and how much they are able to pay for hospital care.230 If the state
decides that an involuntarily detained individual should be able to pay for
some or all of their hospital care, the state issues an ability to pay order—
imposing a harsh financial burden on the individual.231 Utah,232 Florida,233
and Nevada234 have similar laws.
For-profit prison companies are capitalizing off of involuntary civil detention.235 As the number of people involuntarily committed to forensic psychiatric facilities grows, states have privatized the programs to cut costs.236
In particular, psychiatric facilities are extremely profitable for private
prison companies.237 Advocates argue that for-profit prison companies see
forensic psychiatric facilities or civil commitment centers as profitable investments because people can be detained there for life—guaranteeing revenue to the for-profit prison companies expanding into civil detention.238 Just
as for-profit prisons have a financial interest in mass incarceration, private

228

See id.
See id.
230
See DISABILITY RIGHTS OREGON, MENTAL HEALTH LAW IN OREGON 55 (4th ed. 2012),
http://droregon.org/wp-content/uploads/Mental-Health-Law-in-Oregon-Fourth-Edition.pdf,
archived at https://perma.cc/U745-F66U.
231
See id.
232
See UTAH CODE ANN. § 62A-15-607 (2008) (“The division shall estimate and determine, as nearly as possible, the actual expense per annum of caring for and maintaining a
patient in the state hospital, and that amount or portion of that amount shall be assessed to and
paid by the applicant, patient, spouse, parents, child or children who are of sufficient financial
ability to do so.”).
233
See FLA. STAT. § 916.107(2)(a) (2019) (“[E]very reasonable effort to collect appropriate reimbursement for the cost of providing services to clients able to pay for the services,
including reimbursement from insurance or other third-party payments, shall be made.”).
234
See NEV. REV. STAT. § 433A.600 (2013) (“A person who is admitted to a division
facility or to a program of community-based or outpatient services operated by the Division
and not determined to be indigent and every responsible relative . . . of the person shall be
charged for the cost of treatment and is liable for that cost.”).
235
See Lisa Cromwell, Why Privatizing Mental Health Services Won’t Help Patients in
State Care, Bangor Daily News (Jan. 4, 2017), https://bangordailynews.com/2017/01/04/opinion/contributors/why-privatizing-mental-health-services-wont-help-patients-in-state-care/,
archived at https://perma.cc/2VA9-S6MD.
236
See CATE GRAZIANI, A STATE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM IN CRISIS: RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE THE FORENSIC MENTAL HEALTH POPULATION IN TEXAS 18 (Aug. 2014) (unpublished Masters report, University of Texas at Austin), https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/
handle/2152/26497, archived at https://perma.cc/PP5W-KWJU.
237
See Erin Fuchs, For-Profit Prison Companies Have a Worrying Plan for Boosting
Profits, Bus. Insider (Nov. 20, 2014), https://www.businessinsider.com/for-profit-psych-facilities-2014-11, archived at https://perma.cc/8MRK-X2HX.
238
See id.
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corrections companies may be similarly motivated to keep patients committed in psychiatric wards for the long term.239
GEO Group, a private prison company,240 has already expanded into
civil psychiatric commitment through its subsidiary Correct Care.241 Correct
Care is a privately held company owned by two private equity funds with
annual revenues estimated at $1.2 billion.242 Private health-management
companies like Correct Care oversee many hospitals and healthcare providers for people who are currently incarcerated in prisons, jails, or immigrant
detention centers, and for people who have been civilly committed.243 Companies such as Correct Care have a perverse incentive to cut costs to pad
profit margins.244 Correct Care, which has won government contracts in
thirty-four states, provides dangerously substandard services to individuals
under its care, leading to preventable deaths.245
In 2018, Correct Care merged with Correctional Medical Group Company and rebranded as Wellpath Recovery Solutions.246 Wellpath is now the
biggest player in the U.S. correctional health care sector247 and plans to grow
its presence in for-profit behavioral health programs, including services to
treat mental illness and substance use disorders.248 At least fourteen additional, smaller companies have contracts to provide for-profit correctional
medical and health care.249
Wellpath recently began taking over state psychiatric hospitals in order
to run them privately, with the support of state funds.250 Massachusetts al239
240

See id.
GEO GRP., INC., https://www.geogroup.com/, archived at https://perma.cc/A43N-

CLJV.
241
See Eshe Cole, GEO Group Subsidiary, Correct Care Solutions, Bids to Re-purpose
the Bill Clayton Detention Center as a New Civil Commitment Facility, GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP: BLOG (Oct. 2, 2014), https://grassrootsleadership.org/blog/2014/10/geo-group-subsidiary-correct-care-solutions-bids-re-purpose-bill-clayton-detention, archived at https://perma.cc/
B3QY-AWH2.
242
See Ken Silverstein, Leading For-Profit Prison and Immigration Detention Medical
Company Sued At Least 1,395 Times, HUFFPOST (Oct. 29, 2018), https://www.huffpost.com/
entry/correct-care-solutions-detention-center-lawsuits_n_5bd755fce4b07427610a0ccf,
archived at https://perma.cc/N5RY-WXK6.
243
Blake Ellis & Melanie Hicken, ‘PLEASE HELP ME before it’s too late’, CNN (June
25, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/06/us/jail-health-care-ccs-invs/, archived at
https://perma.cc/48SJ-PWY7.
244
See id.
245
See id.
246
WELLPATH, https://wellpathcare.com/, archived at https://perma.cc/6YD3-LURK.
247
See Davide Scigliuzzo et al., Bad Press and Lawsuits Are No Obstacle to a $610
Million Prison Loan, BLOOMBERG (Sept. 21, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-21/bad-press-and-lawsuits-no-obstacle-to-a-610-million-prison-loan, archived at
https://perma.cc/NGY8-TMQN.
248
See id.
249
See PRISON LEGAL NEWS, U.S. For-Profit Privatized Correctional Services (Jan. 2017),
https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/Other%20privatized_1.pdf, archived at
https://perma.cc/2HXB-Z5GK (listing medical/mental health care services).
250
See Kevin Baird, No-bid Contract for Psychiatric Institute Raises Questions, PENINSULA CLARION (Feb. 9, 2019), https://www.peninsulaclarion.com/news/no-bid-contract-forpsychiatric-institute-raises-questions/, archived at https://perma.cc/Z55S-X3Y2.

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lowed Wellpath to assume control of one of its mental health hospitals,
which had previously been overseen by the federal Department of Health
and Human Services, and paid the company to run it with state funds.251
Over the past 10 years, Wellpath has fought over 1,351 federal lawsuits over
its provision of substandard care in various correctional health settings.252
Lawsuits accuse Wellpath of committing malpractice, causing injury and
even death to people housed at facilities where the company is contracted to
provide health care.253
In 2015, a Florida state paper exposed serious violence and neglect at
three Florida state psychiatric hospitals overseen by Correct Care.254 Approximately 60% of the residents at Correct Care’s psychiatric hospitals were
sent there by the criminal legal system because they were deemed mentally
unfit to stand trial.255 These “forensic” patients are committed until they are
deemed competent and are able to return to court to face charges.256
Conditions became so bad at Florida’s Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center that one resident was killed and several staff maimed, allegedly
due to insufficient staffing for the facility.257 The hospital failed to report
assaults and employee misconduct.258 It also lacked sufficient staff, training,
licensing, and funding.259 Over an eleven-year period, there were eightyseven reported batteries; according to former staff, assaults were underreported and many more took place.260
The Center’s dangerously low staffing level was good for its bottom
line: over eighteen months, Correct Care saved an estimated $546,000 by
understaffing and paying token fines, which functioned at best as a slap on
the wrist.261 Moreover, the Center did not comply with Florida fire and build251

See id.
See Sandy Hodson, Medical Care Company for Augusta Jail Settles Lawsuit on Eve of
Trial, AUGUSTA CHRON. (Feb. 11, 2019), https://www.augustachronicle.com/news/20190211/
medical-care-company-for-augusta-jail-settles-lawsuit-on-eve-of-trial, archived at https://per
ma.cc/9KSN-NZUX.
253
See id.
254
See Leonora LaPeter Anton et al., Insane. Invisible. In Danger., TAMPA BAY TIMES &
SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE (Oct. 9, 2015), http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/florida-mental-health-hospitals/cuts/, archived at https://perma.cc/KKZ4-G6GT.
255
See id.
256
See id.
257
See Editorial, State Must Fix Perverse System That Led to Abuses at Mental Hospital,
TREASURE COAST PALM (Feb. 8, 2018), https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/editorials/2018/
02/08/state-and-private-owners-must-fix-perverse-system-allows-dangerous-conditionsmental-hospital-our-vi/311510002/, archived at https://perma.cc/34FB-L4CN.
258
See id.
259
See id.
260
See Lucas Daprile, Dangerous Detention: Treasure Coast Mental Hospital Lacks Staff,
Training, Licensing, Funding, TREASURE COAST PALM (Jan. 21, 2018), https://www.tcpalm
.com/story/news/investigations/2018/01/21/treasure-coast-mental-hospital-not-enough-stafftraining-equipment-funding-tcpalm-investigation-find/921183001/, archived at https://perma
.cc/3Q8T-52JC.
261
Correct Care made this savings over a seventeen-month period, from July 2015 to
December 2016. See Lucas Daprile, Correct Care Solutions Profited $546,000 by Understaffing in Violation of State Contract, TREASURE COAST PALM (Jan. 21, 2018), https://www
252

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ing codes, which would also cost the company money.262 Cost savings were
thus purchased at the expense of patient wellbeing.
Texas provides another example of how Correct Care/Wellpath mismanaged a forensic mental health facility using state funds.263 In its first year
of operating the Montgomery County Mental Health Facility, GEO Care (the
parent company) was fined $53,000 for serious violations to its operating
contract, including “unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications, and
failure to report serious injuries to the state.”264
In Maine, Correct Care operated the Columbia Regional Care Center
from 2014–18; in January 2019, newly elected Democratic Governor Janet
Mills blocked the renewal of Correct Care’s $5.4 million contract to run the
Bangor Psychiatric Facility.265 Mills ended the contract largely thanks to the
objections of a judicial watchdog tasked with overseeing the state’s mental
health care system which exposed disturbing abuses at Correct Care’s facility.266 As the head of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Program observed, “Correct Care Solutions has been under fire from advocates for many years
because we have received so many complaints from prisoners about medical
treatment.”267 In March 2018, for example, the Maine ACLU sued Correct
Care in federal court under the Fourteenth Amendment for its “deliberate
indifference” to the medical needs of an eleven-year-old held in juvenile
detention.268
Despite Correct Care/Wellpath’s long history of denying patients adequate care, Alaska recently signed a contract giving the company control
over the only state-run psychiatric institution.269 Beginning on July 1, 2019,
Alaska began paying Wellpath approximately $43 million per year to run the
.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2018/01/21/dangerous-detention-treasure-coast-mentalhospital-profits-understaffing-despite-fines-workers-comp/922682001/, archived at https://per
ma.cc/7EN2-TED5.
262
See State Must Fix Perverse System, supra note 257.
263
See Graziani & Cole, Incorrect Care, supra note 17, at 6–7.
264
See id. at 7.
265
See Charles Eichacker, Tennessee Company Didn’t Sign Contract to Run Bangor Psychiatric Facility at Mills’ Request, BANGOR DAILY NEWS (Jan. 7, 2019), https://
bangordailynews.com/2019/01/07/news/bangor/at-mills-request-firm-lepage-recruited-to-runbangor-psychiatric-facility-didnt-sign-contract/, archived at https://perma.cc/A7FH-RJVT.
266
See id.
267
See Jake Bleiberg, Youth Prison Watchdog Calls for Audit of Medical Contractor,
WGME (May 28, 2018), https://wgme.com/news/local/youth-prison-watchdog-calls-for-auditof-medical-contractor-05-28-2018, archived at https://perma.cc/6AP5-QWC9.
268
See Amanda Curcio, New Provider of Medical Services at Arkansas Youth Lockups
Named in Past Lawsuits, ARK. DEMOCRAT GAZETTE (July 2, 2018), https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/jul/02/firm-takes-over-youths-jail-care-201807/, archived at https://perma
.cc/5KVJ-FFYR. See also Sadiya Ali v. Long Creek Development Center, Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, No. 2:18-cv-00109-JAW, (D. Me. Mar. 14, 2018).
269
See Daniella Rivera, State Paying Contractor One Million a Month to Avoid ‘Catastrophic’ API Closure, KTVA (Feb. 14, 2019), https://www.ktva.com/story/39967577/statepaying-private-contractor-dollar1-million-monthly-to-avoid-catastrophic-closure-of-api,
archived at https://perma.cc/TP68-L9U9.

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state hospital.270 Some Alaska state legislators have raised concerns that a
for-profit company like Wellpath will “profitize [sic] people[ ] who have
mental illness, and desperately need help and are being forced into an institution where a company is going to be making profits, and incentivized to be
making profits off treating these individuals.”271 These legislators fear that
neither the state nor its citizens’ best interests will be served by hiring a
health-care company that stands to profit off of Alaska residents with severe
mental illnesses.272
Mental health experts have discouraged privatization of forensic psychiatric treatment, given the persistent understaffing and overall poor quality
of care.273 While public forensic hospitals sometimes also provide poor care,
they are at least generally subject to stronger oversight.274 The privatized,
punitive approach that for-profit corrections companies bring to forensic
mental health treatment has had disastrous consequences.275
E. For-Profit Diversion Programs
Diversion and probation can be a critical alternative to incarceration for
misdemeanor defendants. First gaining popularity in the 1970s, diversion
programs have made a resurgence as states search for alternatives to prison
time and have begun reducing various nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors.276 In lieu of jail or prison time, diversion programs send defendants to
treatment that addresses the root causes of their conduct, such as substance
abuse or mental illness.277 Successfully completing the diversion program
permits people to ultimately avoid conviction.278 However, for-profit corrections companies have undermined these programs’ anti-carceral promise by
operating diversion programs for profit that extract wealth from people
caught in the criminal legal system—and sometimes incarcerate people who
are unable to pay their criminal legal debt.
Corrective Solutions is a for-profit diversion company operating in seventeen states and 140 districts nationwide.279 Many district attorney’s offices
270

See id.
See Baird, supra note 250.
272
See Rivera, Catastrophic API Closure, supra note 272.
273
See Graziani, A State Mental Health System in Crisis, supra note 236, at 5–6.
274
See id. at 5–6, 9–10.
275
See CAROLINE ISAACS, GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP, THE TREATMENT-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: HOW FOR-PROFIT PRISON CORPORATIONS ARE UNDERMINING EFFORTS TO TREAT AND
REHABILITATE PEOPLE FOR CORPORATE GAIN 17 (Nov. 2014), https://grassrootsleadership.org/
sites/default/files/reports/TIC_report_online.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/WYU2-LJXY.
276
See Lee Romney, Diversion Programs Are Failing Those Who Need Help the Most,
REVEAL NEWS (May 31, 2017), https://www.revealnews.org/article/private-diversion-programs-are-failing-those-who-need-help-the-most/, archived at https://perma.cc/7M8C-ZAKE.
277
See id.
278
See id.
279
Prosecutors in approximately twenty-two states use Corrective Solutions and
BounceBack, another for-profit diversion program. See Rebecca Burns, Diversion Programs
Say They Offer a Path Away from Court, but Critics Say the Tolls Are Hefty, PROPUBLICA ILL.
271

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divert complaints of bounced checks to Corrective Solutions, which then
pressures defendants into paying for the company’s “voluntary” programs.280
For example, the company charges defendants who write bad checks $175
for a “financial accountability” class.281 Corrective Solutions’ primary focus
is extracting money from probationers, not rehabilitation or community services.282 As a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed, the
Corrective Solutions diversion programs layered on “extra fees for drug
tests, class rescheduling, payment plans, late payments, underpayments and
even overpayments,” all extorted from people with so little wealth that their
checks bounced.283
There is little to no oversight of such diversion programs by the prosecutors and courts that send them criminal justice defendants.284 Corrective
Solutions and similar companies may themselves send out letters insinuating
that unless defendants—who have not yet been sentenced—pay for and take
their courses, they could end up in jail.285 Prosecutors allow debt-collection
companies to send these letters on local district attorney’s office letterhead,
knowing the company will try to collect both the check and high fees, “some
of which go[ ] back to the district attorney’s offices.”286 The company routinely fails to assess the defendants directed to its programs for ability to
pay, though it has promised to do so in several jurisdictions.287 Instead, Corrective Solutions just threatens indigent defendants to pay or go to jail.288
Despite Corrective Solutions’ claims,289 it provides little proof that participation in its programs reduces recidivism.290
Simply enrolling in a Corrective Solutions diversion program costs probationers money that they often do not have.291 With enrollment fees ranging

(Nov. 13, 2018), https://www.propublica.org/article/diversion-programs-illinois-criminal-justice-system-bounceback-correctivesolutions, archived at https://perma.cc/9YT7-EBP8; see
also Denise Grollmus, Corrective Solutions Will Make You Pay, CITY PAGES (Jan. 23, 2013),
http://www.citypages.com/news/corrective-solutions-will-make-you-pay-6765186, archived at
https://perma.cc/J9E4-KM6V; Romney, supra note 276.
280
See Grollmus, supra note 279.
281
See id.
282
See Romney, supra note 276.
283
See id.
284
See id.
285
See Jessica Silver-Greenberg, In Prosecutors, Debt Collectors Find a Partner, N.Y.
TIMES (Sept. 15, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/business/in-prosecutors-debt-collectors-find-a-partner.html, archived at https://perma.cc/6P34-ZZH4.
286
See id.
287
See Kimberly King, News 13 Investigates: Questions Raised About For-Profit Company Running Indigent Fund, NEWS 13 WLOS (Oct. 11, 2016), https://wlos.com/news/local/
news-13-investigates-questions-raised-about-for-profit-company-running-indigent-fun,
archived at https://perma.cc/K333-3RTY.
288
See id.
289
See Diversion/Deferred Prosecution Programs, CORRECTIVE SOLUTIONS, http://correctivesolutions.org/diversion-programs, archived at https://perma.cc/J2HW-NJDE.
290
See Romney, supra note 276.
291
See Burns, supra note 279.

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from $200 to $500 just to enter diversion,292 these types of entry barriers
already put a large number of misdemeanor defendants, who are largely poor
or working class,293 at a disadvantage. Such diversion programs privilege
wealthier probationers, who receive diversion and a clean record, over more
financially distressed ones, who must accept a conviction and often jail
time.294
Defendants who can scrape together the money to pay for a diversion
program may then face a long series of costly fees. Corrective Solutions
requires people sentenced to probation to pay a multitude of fees and to pay
for classes related to their criminal charges.295 Prosecutors sometimes also
add conditions like community service or drug or alcohol testing, all of
which Corrective Solutions provides for a price.296 The collected money is
typically split between the diversion program and the prosecutor’s office,
with the bulk of the fees going to the company.297 People must pay their
criminal legal debt in full before their misdemeanor can be expunged from
their record.298
If a defendant agrees to participate by paying into the program, then
they must sign an agreement that usually includes a guilty plea.299 If the
defendant then defaults at a later time because they are unable to continue to
pay the required fees, the waiver of their right to trial still stands.300 These
conditional guilty pleas require the impoverished defendant to go to jail,
simply because they cannot afford the price.301
In Maryland, for example, state prosecutors allowed private companies
like Corrective Solutions to issue official threats of prosecution, using prosecutors’ official letterhead.302 Corrective Solutions, among other diversion
programs, was permitted to make such allegations even when prosecutors
had not meaningfully reviewed the claim.303 The letters told defendants they
could avoid prosecution for charges such as “bad check passing” by paying

292
See Kimberly King, Corrective Solutions: News 13 Investigation Leads to Program
Termination, NEWS 13 WLOS (Sept. 5, 2017), https://wlos.com/news/local/buncombe-countyto-end-use-of-crime-diversion-program-corrective-solutions, archived at https://perma.cc/
K8L4-LR2E.
293
See Burns, supra note 279.
294
See id.
295
See id.
296
See id.
297
See id.
298
See King, Corrective Solutions, supra note 292.
299
See Roman Gressier, Who Profits from Pay-for-Treatment Diversion, THE CRIME REP.
(Mar. 11, 2019), https://thecrimereport.org/2019/03/11/who-profits-from-pay-for-treatment-diversion-programs, archived at https://perma.cc/4YQW-T33A.
300
See id.
301
See id.
302
See ACLU Questions State’s Attorneys About Authorizing Private Companies to
Threaten Prosecution for Profit, ACLU MD. (Jan. 14, 2013), https://www.aclu-md.org/en/
press-releases/aclu-questions-states-attorneys-about-authorizing-private-companies-threaten,
archived at https://perma.cc/547M-2KN9.
303
See id.

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fees to attend the company’s “financial accountability” classes.304 For their
part, the prosecutor’s office received a small part of the fees, though the
diversion programs collected the majority of the money.305
Companies like Corrective Solutions provide diversion programs for a
variety of other charges, including trespassing, theft, driving under the influence (DUI), drug and alcohol offenses, and domestic violence.306 Advocates
and experts have raised concerns that allowing private, for-profit companies
to run these diversion programs results in the possibility of prosecution for
profit.307
These abuses are made possible by a loophole in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which bars collection agencies from threatening
jail time and deceiving consumers.308 The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
was passed to eliminate abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices committed by third-party debt collectors.309 But Congress carved out an
exception for state officials and collectors of state and local debt, believing
they had less incentive to use unscrupulous tactics.310
In reality, this loophole provides legal cover for abusive practices committed by collection agencies working on behalf of law enforcement.311 In
other words, a third-party, private debt collector such as Corrective Solutions can ignore the mandates of the FDCPA simply because it intermittently
collects debts on behalf of a state entity.312 Therefore, collection agencies
such as Corrective Solutions, BounceBack, American Corrective Group, and
Check Diversion Program can send out legal notices on local district attorney letterhead, threatening people with jail time for non-payment of their
debts, all while collecting approximately $200 in fines per person.313 Moreover, district attorneys are helping these companies collect their fines.314
Many diversion companies split the collected administrative fees with
district attorneys to make themselves a more valuable partner.315 This arrangement can provide some serious revenue to prosecutors. Los Angeles

304

See id.
See id.
306
See Burns, supra note 279.
307
See id.
308
See Grollmus, supra note 279.
309
15 U.S.C. § 1692 (2012).
310
15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6)(C) (2012).
311
See Mosi Secret, District Attorneys Can Keep on Cashing In on Check Fees, PROPUBLICA (Apr. 7, 2009), https://www.propublica.org/article/district-attorneys-can-keep-cashing-inon-debt-collection-fees-0407, archived at https://perma.cc/PB7B-EGGN.
312
See Brief Amici Curiae of 5 Consumer Law Professors in Support of Respondents,
Sheriff v. Gillie, 136 S. Ct. 1594 (2016) (No. 15-338), at 7, https://www.scotusblog.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/03/15-338_amicus_resp_ConsumerLawProfessors.authcheckdam.pdf,
archived at https://perma.cc/ZY7Q-Y2GG.
313
See Grollmus, supra note 279.
314
See id.
315
See Secret, supra note 311.
305

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County, for example, received two million dollars in 2008.316 Likewise, in
Maricopa County, Arizona, the prosecutor’s office received fifteen million
dollars over ten years from its marijuana diversion program, operated jointly
with a for-profit diversion company.317 District attorney’s offices may find
these private diversion programs too remunerative to give up.318 Kickbacks
to prosecutors raise a serious conflict of interest when criminal misdemeanor
investigations are outsourced to for-profit diversion companies that have financial stakes in the ultimate outcome.319 Equally disturbing, this system allows unaccountable companies to administer critical aspects of the criminal
legal system.320
When private debt collectors use a law enforcement agency’s letterhead,
they create a false impression about who the sender of the letter is, potentially violating the FDCPA.321 The FDCPA has been interpreted to forbid a
“range of implications” beyond the direct representation that the debt collector is a government agent.322 Similarly, the FDCPA should be construed
to prohibit the misleading impression created by a private collection company’s use of a district attorney’s letterhead on an official notice sent to the
debtor. Private third-party debt collectors should not be allowed to pass as
exempt state collectors.
As a whole, for-profit diversion and treatment programs exist largely on
revenue from fines and fees imposed on defendants by the criminal legal
system.323 These programs are a “net widener of mass incarceration, and a
pipeline to debtors’ prison that most adversely affects poor communities of
color.”324 For-profit diversion programs thus primarily benefit their holding
companies and local prosecutors, undermining the goal of ending mass
incarceration.
F. Sex Offender Post-Release Treatment and Civil Commitment
The for-profit corrections industry has also begun expanding its reach
into civil commitment facilities and post-offense treatment for sex offenders.
People convicted of sex offenses are sometimes subject to nearly indefinite
detention: even when they are not technically serving prison sentences, they
316
See Drew Griffin & David Fitzpatrick, Bounced-Check Collection Deals Draw Fire,
CNN (Mar. 2, 2009), http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/02/siu.bad.checks/index.html, archived
at https://perma.cc/29HA-VLTT.
317
See Gressier, supra note 299.
318
See id.
319
See ACLU MD., supra note 302.
320
See Burns, supra note 279.
321
See 15 U.S.C. §1692e(1) (2012); Gammon v. GC Services, 27 F.3d 1254, 1257 (7th
Cir. 1994).
322
Gammon, 27 F.3d at 1257 (“[T]he FDCPA forbids a range of implications wider than
merely the direct representation that the debt collector is or is a part of state or federal
government.”).
323
See Gressier, supra note 299.
324
Id.

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are still subject to strict control by the criminal legal system. The criminal
justice debt imposed on those convicted of sex offenses is another troubling
facet of the treatment-industrial complex.
1. Costs of Civil Registration
The state generally requires people convicted of sex offenses to register
for a public sex-offender registry. Registry requirements can impose a great
deal of criminal justice debt on sex offenders. States repeatedly require sex
offenders to pay to be listed on the sex offender registry,325 and failing to
register is a criminal offense in itself. Sex offenders may be required to
remain on the registry for fifteen years or even for life, depending on the
conviction.326 Caught between accumulating fees, additional fines, and the
risk of re-incarceration if they cannot make payments related to sex offender
registration, many people become trapped in a vicious cycle of treatment,
prison, and criminal justice debt. The treatment-industrial complex is fatally
easy to enter, but can be almost impossible to leave.
Individuals convicted of sex offenses frequently must also pay for staterequired treatment, polygraphs, and GPS monitoring.327 For people convicted
of Level Three sex offenses, GPS monitoring can be life-long and entail fees
to private providers.328 Moreover, many states do not provide a waiver of the
monitoring fee for low-income individuals convicted of sex offenses.329
Even convictions for minor sex offenses can result in extremely expensive treatment. Seattle, Washington requires a $900, ten-week course on
toxic masculinity for men convicted of soliciting prostitution.330 The class,
“Stopping Sexual Exploitation,” is run by the Organization for Prostitution
Survivors, a Seattle-based non-profit.331 The ten-week course tries to teach
men about “the . . . roots of prostitution: patriarchy, male privilege, and the

325

See Wright & Logan, supra note 99, at 1191.
See Catherine L. Carpenter & Amy E. Beverlin, The Evolution of Unconstitutionality in
Sex Offender Registration Laws, 63 HASTINGS L.J. 1071, 1087 (2012).
327
See Another Reason Why Sex Offender Registration Fees are a Bad Idea, FLA. ACTION
COMM. (Jan. 17, 2018), https://floridaactioncommittee.org/another-reason-why-sex-offenderregistration-fees-are-a-bad-idea/, archived at https://perma.cc/HZJ5-Z7L6.
328
See Rhonda Cook, Sex Offender Argues Mandatory Ankle Monitors are Unconstitutional, ATLANTA J.-CONST. (Dec. 5, 2016), https://www.ajc.com/news/local/sex-offender-argues-mandatory-ankle-monitors-are-unconstitutional/SaXCToWMJ3wgmFm2mvMuzN/,
archived at https://perma.cc/L83C-TDBP. The Georgia Supreme Court recently held that lifetime ankle monitoring for sex offenders is unconstitutional. See Bill Rankin, Court Strikes
Down Lifetime Electronic Monitoring of Sex Offenders, ATLANTA J.-CONST. (Mar. 4, 2019),
https://www.ajc.com/news/local/court-strikes-down-lifetime-electronic-monitoring-sex-offenders/FiuHbWK5Nf0pOTcgqD8IMO/, archived at https://perma.cc/J5QF-3NSK.
329
See id.
330
See Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Truth About the Biggest U.S. Sex Trafficking Story of
the Year, REASON, (Oct. 5, 2017), https://reason.com/2016/09/09/the-truth-about-us-sex-trafficking/, archived at https://perma.cc/REN3-HE9P.
331
See ORG. FOR PROSTITUTION SURVIVORS, http://seattleops.org/what-we-do/mens-accountability/, archived at https://perma.cc/25ZS-W8C9.
326

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barriers to healthy relationships.”332 Similar men’s accountability classes, required by the courts, are used in other Washington State cities such as Tacoma and Everett.333
Colorado requires people convicted of sex offenses to pay a whole host
of fees and fines. First, everyone who is convicted of a sex offense must pay
for a psychosexual evaluation, which costs approximately $1,000 to
$2,000.334 Next, people required to undergo treatment for committing sex
offenses typically must attend five treatment sessions per month.335 Four of
the treatments consist of group therapy, costing $50 a session, and one is
individual therapy, at $75 a session.336 Therefore, just attending treatment
will cost a defendant $275 per month.337
Treatment plans can go on for months or even years, depending on the
severity of the sex offense.338 Nationally, the average sex offender treatment
program lasts about eighteen months, according to Elizabeth Letourneau, the
president of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.339 Although the Colorado Department of Probation does provide treatment financial assistance to some individuals convicted of sex offenses, every person
must sign a contract agreeing to pay the costs in full.340 If they default on the
payments, the individuals are not just in violation of the treatment contract
but have violated their probation as well.341
Treatment is just the beginning of fees for individuals convicted of sex
offenses. In Colorado, some individuals also must pay a private “tracker,”
usually an off-duty police officer, who ensures that the person is where she
claims she is going when she leaves the house.342 These private services
charge $15 to $30 an hour, paid by the defendant.343 In addition, some individuals convicted of sex offenses in Colorado must pay for two or more
polygraphs per year, which cost approximately $250 per test.344 Defendants
considered sexually violent must register every quarter.345 Colorado also im332
See Brooke Jarvis, Can We “Cure” the Men Who Pay For Sex?, GQ (Feb. 2, 2017),
https://www.gq.com/story/cure-men-who-pay-for-sex-end-prostitution, archived at https://per
ma.cc/GJ3P-NUBM.
333
See Sara Lerner, Seattle “John School” Educates Men Who Pay for Sex, KUOW (June
4, 2013), http://archive.kuow.org/post/seattle-john-school-educates-men-who-pay-sex,
archived at https://perma.cc/4647-B3UX.
334
See FREAKONOMICS, Making Sex Offenders Pay—and Pay and Pay and Pay (Ep. 208):
Full Transcript (June 10, 2015), http://freakonomics.com/2015/06/10/making-sex-offenderspay-and-pay-and-pay-and-pay-full-transcript/, archived at https://perma.cc/T6Z8-UBUH.
335
See id.
336
See id.
337
See id.
338
See id.
339
See id.
340
See FREAKONOMICS, Making Sex Offenders Pay, supra note 334.
341
See id.
342
See id.
343
See id.
344
See id. Wisconsin and Minnesota have similar requirements. See Wis. Stat.
§ 51.375(2)(a) (2019); Minn. Stat. Ann. §609.3456(a)(2019).
345
See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-22-108(1)(d)(I) (2019).

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poses a general surcharge ranging in cost from $500 to $3,000, depending on
the class of felony.346 Sometimes, people convicted of sex offenses are also
required to pay for room and board at a group home where they are ordered
to live.347 In total, a Colorado resident convicted of a sex offense will likely
pay approximately $10,000 the first year they are charged and convicted,
according to one treatment provider’s estimate.348
In 2018, Kentucky proposed a bill requiring all individuals convicted of
sex offenses to pay for the cost of keeping a sex offender registry, roughly
$100 per person per year.349 Anyone failing to pay would be fined up to $250
for the first offense, and for the second offense, would be charged with a
misdemeanor.350 Illinois has a similar fee structure, charging a $100 initial
fee and a $100 annual fee, and West Virginia charges $40 annually.351 Residents of Jackson County, Indiana who have been convicted of sex offenses
must pay $50 annually and a $5 fee every time they change address.352 Georgia charges $250 annually, a substantial expense for those living at or below
the poverty line.353
In Wyoming, someone convicted of a sex offense must pay $150 to
initially register for the sex-offender registry and, if they leave town, pay
$31.25 to “de-register.”354 Each time a defendant enters a new town, she
must pay the $31.25 to re-register.355 Individuals must also report every “life
change,” such as new cars, new tattoos, or new employers, and pay to have
each of these changes recorded.356 If people convicted of sex offenses fail to
pay registration fees, they can face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up
to $750 and six months’ jail time.357 Failing to report changes within three
days is a felony, punishable by up to $1,000 and five years in prison.358
Likewise, Louisiana imposes a complex set of requirements and fees on
every newly released individual convicted of a sex offense, which can total
up to $1,300 in the first thirty days after release from prison.359 Along with a
346

See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-21-103(1) (2019).
See Philip Cherner, Felony Sex Offender Sentencing, 33 COLO. LAW. 11, 16 (2004).
348
See FREAKONOMICS, Making Sex Offenders Pay, supra note 334.
349
See James Mayse, Bill Would Create Annual Fee for State’s Sex Offender Registry, KY.
NEW ERA (Feb. 3, 2018), http://www.kentuckynewera.com/news/ap/article_f8e9bc4e-089311e8-9a93-cf1483aaf333.html, archived at https://perma.cc/CCP8-F2EA.
350
See id.
351
See id.
352
See Maira Ansari, Sex Offenders Will Soon Have to Pay to Be on Registry, WAVE 3
NEWS (Apr. 23, 2019), http://www.wave3.com/2019/04/23/sex-offenders-will-soon-have-paybe-registry/, archived at https://perma.cc/PK4K-4Z6M.
353
See Justin DiCharia, The Plight of the Unpopular Poor: Sex Offender Registration and
Notification Costs to Indigent Offenders in Louisiana, 79 LA. L. REV. 519, 533 (2018).
354
See Emily Mieure, Sex Offenders Now Pay the Cost of Supervision, JACKSON HOLE
NEWS & GUIDE (July 26, 2017), https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/cops_courts/article_67079980-6c69-5cbc-ad2a-5604c5f955d3.html, archived at https://perma.cc/5QGK-8SRS.
355
See id.
356
See id.
357
See id.
358
See id.
359
See DiCharia, supra note 353, at 531.
347

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$60 initial registration fee, defendants must obtain a new driver’s license
($32.25 to $38.25) and state identification card ($18 to $24) within the first
three days of their release.360 Louisiana’s short timeline, complicated list of
requirements, and associated fees make compliance extremely difficult for
those individuals who are homeless, indigent, or near the poverty line.361
In addition, individuals convicted of sex offenses in Louisiana must
notify every residence within the legally required radius around their home
by post; in urban areas, this can cost up to $1,000.362 They must also pay for
two days of newspaper advertisements delineating their new address, which
typically costs about $200.363 Failure to comply with either the registration or
notification requirements can result in prosecution for failure to properly
register.364
All states have laws requiring sex offenders to update their registration
after a change of residence.365 Failure to register in a timely manner can carry
steep penalties.366 Under federal law, an individual convicted of a sex offense is supposed to register a change of address before a move.367 But people convicted of sex offenses often have great difficulty finding legal
housing and thus experience severe housing instability.368 This is made
worse by the restrictive housing laws some states impose on people on the
registry. In Georgia, for example, a registered sex offender may not “reside,
be employed, or linger within 1000 feet of a school; child care facility;
church; public or private park, recreation facility or playground; skating
rink; neighborhood center; gymnasium; community swimming pool; or
school bus stop.”369 Any violation of these restrictions is a felony punishable
by ten to thirty years in prison.370 These types of restrictions “effectively bar
registered sex offenders from residing in some high-density areas,” such as
large towns or cities.371 When people convicted of sex offenses are evicted,
they may be in violation of federal law unless they manage to register a
change of address before an eviction occurs.372 Many states subject homeless
360

See id.
See id. at 545.
362
See id. at 532.
363
See id.
364
See id.
365
See Catherine Wagner, Note, The Good Left Undone: How to Stop Sex Offender Laws
from Causing Unnecessary Harm at the Expense of Effectiveness, 38 AM. J. CRIM. L. 263, 281
(2011).
366
See id.
367
See 34 U.S.C.A. § 20913 (West 2017); see also OFF. OF THE ATT’Y GEN., U.S. DEP’T OF
JUST., THE NATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION AND NOTIFICATION
(2007), at 30.
368
See Wagner, supra note 365, at 286.
369
Richard Tewksbury, Exile at Home: The Unintended Collateral Consequences of Sex
Offender Residency Restrictions, 42 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 531, 531 (2007).
370
See id.
371
Abigail E. Horn, Note, Wrongful Collateral Consequences, 87 GEO. WASH. L. REV.
315, 333 (2019).
372
See Wagner, supra note 365, at 282.
361

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people on the registry to even more stringent reporting requirements, increasing the attendant risk of prosecution and incarceration.373 Some states
also have extremely rigid vacation reporting requirements, mandating that
sex offenders re-register after they have been gone from their home state for
as few as five days.374 Each registration or re-registration costs money.
In addition to registration and notification fees, other states require sex
offenders to pay to submit DNA samples to state and federal databases.375
For example, Arkansas charges $250 for DNA processing, in addition to the
$250 initial registration fee.376 On top of this, people who become eligible to
remove their name from the sex offender registry may have to pay to do so.
Utah, for example, imposes a fee to apply for the certificate permitting the
removal of one’s name from the registry, and then a separate fee to actually
issue the certificate.377
There is little reliable empirical evidence supporting claims that state
sex offender registration laws are effective at reducing recidivism.378 In fact,
the emerging consensus among experts is that registration laws may ultimately increase recidivism by “exacerbating the risk factors” of those subject to such constant regulation.379 All of these fees, either piecemeal or in
total, can make it impossible for people who have been convicted of sex
offenses and served their sentences to support themselves and stay out of jail
or prison.380 To successfully rehabilitate people who have been convicted of
sex offenses, states should try to limit the type and number of fees imposed
on sex offenders after their release.
2. Post-Release Civil Commitment
Approximately twenty states have civil commitment laws and facilities.381 People convicted of sex offenses in those states can sometimes be
civilly confined even after completing their prison sentences, sometimes in-

373
See Elizabeth Esser-Stuart, The Irons Are Always in the Background: The Unconstitutionality of Sex Offender Post-Release Laws as Applied to the Homeless, 96 TEX. L. REV. 811,
816 (2018).
374
See Wagner, supra note 365, at 282.
375
See David A. Makin, Andrea M. Walker, & Christopher M. Campbell, Paying to Be
Punished: A Statutory Analysis of Sex Offender Registration Fees, 37 CRIM. JUST. ETHICS 215,
227 (2018).
376
See id.
377
See Petition to Remove Name from Sex Offender and Kidnap Offender Registry (May
31, 2019), UTAH COURTS, https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/criminallaw/petition_registry_re
moval.html, archived at https://perma.cc/455G-CDPT.
378
See J. J. Prescott, Portmanteau Ascendant: Post-Release Regulations and Sex Offender
Recidivism, 48 CONN. L. REV. 1035, 1039–40 (2016).
379
Id. at 1040.
380
See DiCharia, supra note 353, at 520, 522.
381
See A Profile of Civil Commitment Around the Country, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 3, 2007),
https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/03/03/us/20070304_CIVIL_
GRAPHIC.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype
=article&region=EndOfArticle, archived at https://perma.cc/69SH-Q2GQ.

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definitely, if they are deemed likely to recidivate.382 Although it is a form of
long-term incarceration, the government classifies civil commitment as a
“therapeutic,” rather than punitive, intervention.383 People confined in civil
commitment tend to have indefinite sentences until state officials decide
they have been rehabilitated.384 In theory, civil commitment aims to ensure
sex offenders have access to treatment and are prepared for release.385
Civil commitment can cost the state almost four times more than confining someone in state prison.386 Accordingly, states have begun shifting the
costs of detention onto the very people who are detained. Texas and Florida,
for example, confiscate part of civilly committed people’s incomes.387 States
have also begun using private corrections companies to help save money on
the operation of civil commitment facilities and the provision of sex offender
treatment.
Private, for-profit prison companies have taken over publicly funded
facilities that lie “somewhere at the intersection of incarceration and therapy.”388 In Texas, where individuals sentenced to civil commitment must
shoulder some of the costs, their money is given directly to the privately run
detention centers.389 For example, in 2015, Correct Care Solutions was
awarded the management of the Texas-based Bill Clayton Detention Facility,
which houses approximately 200 people civilly committed for sex offenses
who have already served their prison sentences.390 The state gave Correct
Care a $24 million contract to run the facility.391 Since the facility’s opening,
only five men have been released, and four of them were instead sent to
hospitals directly preceding their death.392 Although the purported function
of the Civil Commitment Center is to rehabilitate individuals convicted of
sex offenses, the residents receive few services in what is a for-profit prison
in all but name, exiled to a remote location on the state’s outskirts, far away
from most of their families.393
Like other facilities run by Correct Care, staff turnover is high and
medical care is frequently delayed.394 Individual counseling sessions (re382

See Fuchs, supra note 237.
Toshio Meronek & Erica R. Meiners, Beyond the Carceral Logic of Civil Commitment,
THE NEXT SYSTEM (Nov. 10, 2017), https://thenextsystem.org/learn/stories/beyond-carcerallogic-civil-commitment, archived at https://perma.cc/T8GX-HA4Q.
384
See id. (Introduction).
385
See id. (Rushville).
386
See id. (Rushville).
387
See TEX. HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE ANN. art 11, § 841.047 (West 2017); FLA. STAT.
§ 394.928 (1999).
388
See Michael Barajas, A Prison by Any Other Name, TEX. OBSERVER (Feb. 12, 2018),
https://www.texasobserver.org/a-prison-by-any-other-name/, archived at https://perma.cc/
SFR2-NRKK
389
See id.
390
See Graziani & Cole, supra note 17, at 10.
391
See Barajas, supra note 388.
392
See id.
393
See id.
394
See id.

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quired by the state) have been reduced from every two weeks to once every
three months.395 The constant staff rotation means that it is very difficult to
“graduate” from the program; the patient must start over from scratch with
each new therapist.396 The facility does everything it can to extract extra cash
from the residents. For example, any packages sent to residents must contain
a receipt, so the facility may charge the sender one-third of its worth.397
Many residents must pay part of the cost of their ankle monitors, despite
being held in a secure facility.398
Florida and South Carolina also have civil commitment centers run by
Correct Care.399 Florida’s civil commitment center has been plagued by many
of the same problems as Texas, with insufficient staffing, undertrained workers, and minimal treatment.400 Only about 15% of the residents complete the
therapy treatment by the time they are released, obviating much of the point
of the civil commitment, which is to provide therapy to prevent recidivism.401 Florida is the only state to have a private, for-profit company entirely in charge of their Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent
Predators’ Treatment and Care Act.402 The full contract between Florida and
Correct Care, which ran until 2014, paid the company a total of $272
million.403
Private, for-profit companies do not have a good track record in running civil commitment centers.404 In 2004, the safety director of a Florida
civil commitment center managed by Liberty Healthcare Company erased
video evidence after a resident jumped off the roof.405 The entire center was
dramatically mismanaged, with high staff turnover, abusive behavior from
staff and residents, crumbling facilities, and little rehabilitative treatment.406
All of this created a “cesspool of despair and depression and drug abuse.”407

395
See Weekend Read: They Served Their Prison Sentences, But They’re Still Locked Up,
SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER (Feb. 16, 2018), https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/02/
16/weekend-read-they-served-their-prison-sentences-theyre-still-locked, archived at https://per
ma.cc/8E6G-SZ6P.
396
See Barajas, supra note 388.
397
See id.
398
See id.
399
See id.
400
See Violent Sexual Predators Held Indefinitely - For a Profit, NBC2, (June 9, 2015),
https://www.nbc-2.com/story/29230766/violent-sexual-predators-held-indefinitely-for-a-profit,
archived at https://perma.cc/8XH9-Q45L.
401
See id.
402
See id.
403
See id.
404
See Barajas, supra note 388.
405
See David Sherfinski, Virginia Considers Two Jail Firms with Sketchy Pasts, WASH.
TIMES (Apr. 30, 2012), https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/30/virginia-considers-2-jail-firms-with-sketchy-pasts/, archived at https://perma.cc/JK7Z-LUVR.
406
See Abby Goodnough and Monica Davey, A Record of Failure at Center for Sex Offenders, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 5, 2007), https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/05/us/05civil.html,
archived at https://perma.cc/884W-G58A.
407
See id.

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Despite the myriad problems it had in Florida, Liberty Healthcare Company currently runs an Illinois civil commitment center called Rushville.408
As of May 2016, only eighty-three residents out of hundreds had been released from the program.409
The for-profit corrections industry also offers a variety of services to
civil commitment centers. Massachusetts uses a private company, MHM
Correctional Services, to run release evaluations for those incarcerated in its
civil commitment center.410 Although these examiners are supposed to be
appointed by the court, there is little oversight or transparency, and most
evaluations are done by MHM.411
Like all other aspects of the treatment-industrial complex, criminal justice debt arising from civil commitment is most frequently levied by private
corrections companies.412 The result is to further impoverish those individuals who are most vulnerable, imposing often unpayable amounts on them
and their families. This relatively unexplored corner of alternative corrections can no longer be ignored.
II. THE PROFIT MOTIVE: THE CORRECTIONS INDUSTRY,
TAXATION & PRIVATE EQUITY
The treatment-industrial complex, and the criminal legal debt it creates,
are the result of public policy choices. States imposed fees and fines before
the arrival of private corrections companies.413 Nonetheless, the astronomical
increase of criminal justice debt in alternative corrections is linked to the
parallel rise of for-profit prison behemoths. Thus, to fully understand how
and why alternative corrections debt has grown, it is important to investigate
the financial underpinnings of the companies that foster it.
Throughout the criminal justice system, a handful of privately held
companies—most notably GEO Group and CoreCivic—dominate the correctional-services market.414 These for-profit corrections companies are
themselves funded by private-equity firms.415 There are almost 4,000 compa408
See Meronek & Meiners, supra note 383 (discussing Rushville Treatment and Detention Center).
409
See id.
410
See Christian M. Wade, Sex Offenders Examiners’ Oversight Questioned, THE SALEM
NEWS (June 14, 2018), https://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/sex-offender-examinersoversight-questioned/article_4b142ae8-8b65-5439-b967-cabbd3951fe8.html, archived at
https://perma.cc/7CPU-AAKJ?type=image (explaining the role of the private company MHM
Correctional Services Inc. in Massachusetts).
411
See id.
412
See Barajas, supra note 388.
413
See Appleman, Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration, supra note 14, at 1492–98,
1506–13.
414
See Tim Requarth, How Private Companies Are Turning Public Prisons into Big Profits, THE NATION, (Apr. 30, 2019), https://www.thenation.com/article/prison-privatization-private-equity-hig/, archived at https://perma.cc/8M7U-QCQX.
415
See id.

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nies with a financial stake in the corrections industrial complex.416 Within
the alternative corrections universe, the list includes well-known names like
Amazon, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard.417 Many high-profile companies
have their fingers in the alternative corrections pie.418
Some private corrections companies profit off the real estate used in the
alternative corrections and treatment-industrial complex, as it is far easier to
build and locate halfway houses, substance abuse treatment centers, and
other alternative corrections facilities than private prisons and jails.419 Private
corrections companies may also view alternative corrections as a way to
maintain earnings if activists succeed in reducing mass incarceration, which
may undercut profits from private prisons. Private corrections companies are
thus repositioning themselves as providers of “evidence-based” re-entry services.420 The more people that are released from mass incarceration, the more
private corrections companies can profit from their alternative corrections
programs.
Private equity enables the growth of private corrections companies.
HIG Capital, for example, which manages over $30 billion in assets, has
helped consolidate small corrections-industry companies into behemoths that
dominate their markets, including alternative corrections.421 The role of private equity firms in helping broker “rollups”—i.e., bundling fragmented
smaller corrections companies into national corrections behemoths—has
transformed the correctional-services industry.422
A. REIT Structuring: Geo Group and CoreCivic
Wall Street banks finance CoreCivic and GEO Group, the two primary
multibillion-dollar private prison companies that dominate the alternative

416
See The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players, WORTH RISES 1
(Apr. 2019), https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58e127cb1b10e31ed45b20f4/t/5cc7c27b9e
3a8d00018649c5/1556595324791/The+Prison+Industrial+Complex+-+Mapping+Private
+Sector+Players+-+2019.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/39HB-VS3Z.
417
See id. at 4.
418
The list of companies includes Amazon, Equivant, Hexagon Safety, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Palantir, Tyler Technologies, Berkshire Hathaway, Bob Barker, Hewlett Packard, Ingersoll Rand, Stanley Black & Decker, Vista Outdoors, VF Corp., Keefe/Access
Corrections, Citigroup, Securus/JPay, NIC, Global Tel Link/TouchPay, Western Union, WEX,
3M, Dauphin, Corrective Education Co., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Milliken & Co., MTC,
and Pearson/Certiport. See id. at 4–6.
419
See, e.g., CoreCivic, Inc., Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (FORM 10-K), at 14 (Dec. 31, 2016), https://www.sec.gov/Archives/
edgar/data/1070985/000119312517053982/d310578d10k.htm#toc, archived at https://perma
.cc/VCU9-ZUWK [hereinafter CoreCivic, Inc., FORM 10-K (2016)] (noting that CoreCivic has
three categories of facilities: correctional, detention, and community corrections).
420
See Liliana Segura, The First Step Act Could Be a Gift to CoreCivic and the Private
Prison Industry, THE INTERCEPT (Dec. 22, 2018), https://theintercept.com/2018/12/22/firststep-act-corecivic-private-prisons/, archived at https://perma.cc/E4UL-4Y8P.
421
See Requarth, supra note 414.
422
See id.

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corrections arena.423 These multinational banks424 grant loans and extend
other financing agreements that are key components in expanding the private
alternative corrections industry.425 GEO Group and CoreCivic require debt
financing both to fund their daily business and to expand.426 Each of these
companies achieve debt financing through a combination of credit, loans,
and bonds.427
GEO Group and CoreCivic both have agreements with multiple banks
for revolving lines of credit, which allow them to borrow and repay funds at
will, up to their credit limit.428 Private corrections companies also enter into
term loan agreements, which permit them to borrow a certain amount from a
combination of banks, to be repaid according to a determined schedule.429
Finally, banks underwrite the corporate bonds issued by private corrections
companies, which are then purchased by private banks and resold on the
secondary market.430 The banks receive millions of dollars in interest and
fees in return.431 This kind of debt financing enables the private corrections
industry’s continued growth.432
The for-profit corrections industry relies heavily on debt financing because the corrections companies are structured as real estate investment
trusts (REITs).433 The REIT structure requires the companies to pass on income to investors, limiting available cash and forcing a reliance on borrowing.434 REITs are an investment vehicle created for companies investing in
and obtaining revenue from real estate holdings, like hotel chains, and are
traded on the stock market.435 To qualify as REITs, private corrections companies contend that renting cells and rooms to the government is similar to

423
See Shahrzad Habibi et al., 2019 Data Brief: The Wall Street Banks Still Financing
Private Prisons, IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST (Apr. 5, 2019), http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/
wp-content/uploads/Updated-2019-Data-Brief-The-Wall-Street-Banks-Still-Financing-PrivatePrisons-FINAL-EMBARGOED-UNTIL-4-8-19-1030am.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/
9SWS-8C39.
424
Banks such as Fifth Third, Citizens, PNC, Pinnacle Bank, First Tennessee Bank,
Synovus Bank, and NOUS Bank. See id. at 2.
425
See id. at 1.
426
See id.
427
See id.
428
See id.
429
See Habibi et al., supra note 423, at 3
430
See id.
431
See id.
432
See id. at 5.
433
See id. at 2.
434
See id.
435
See Matt Stroud, Why Would a Prison Corporation Restructure as a Real Estate Company?, FORBES (Jan. 31, 2013), https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattstroud/2013/01/31/whywould-a-prison-corporation-restructure-as-a-real-estate-company/#214bb67b6caa, archived at
https://perma.cc/FBK8-TCBL.

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charging tenants rent, thus making the private corrections industry a real
estate venture.436
By transforming their companies into entities called Taxable REIT Subsidiaries, the companies can separate the operational aspect of their corrections business from the real estate side of owning and generating income
from buildings, such as correctional facilities, re-entry facilities, day-reporting centers, and halfway houses.437 When private prison and alternative corrections companies restructure as REITs, they can take advantage of
significant REIT tax benefits.438 REITs generally pay no income tax and
must distribute at least 90% of their income as shareholder dividends.439 The
dividends can be distributed as a combination of cash and stock.440
For example, CoreCivic was subject to a 36% corporate tax rate before
its conversion to an REIT in 2013. After the reorganization, it paid an effective tax rate of 3% in the first quarter of 2015.441 For-profit corrections companies structured as REITs have benefitted tremendously from the 2017
Trump tax law.442 The law cut taxes on investments in REITs by 25%, from
39.6% to 29.6%.443
Tax laws also encourage private corrections companies to build and
lease their own facilities, rather than manage state or county facilities.444 This
incentive aligns with the private corrections industry’s new interest in halfway houses, substance abuse treatment centers, and other alternative corrections facilities,445 which can be developed more easily than private prisons or
jails. There is far less regulation and bureaucratic paperwork in building and
running a single halfway house or treatment center than in building and
managing a jail or prison.446
436
See Jamiles Lartey, Private Prison Investors Set for Giant Windfall from Trump Bill,
GUARDIAN (Dec. 28, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/28/private-prisons-investors-trump-tax-bill, archived at https://perma.cc/P4KN-KHFV.
437
See Stroud, supra note 435. REITs are complicated investment vehicles; “at least 95
percent of a REIT’s income ‘must be derived from “passive” financial investments . . . as
opposed to “active” income from business activities,’ and ‘at least 75 percent of a REIT’s
income must be derived from real estate sources . . .’ according to the IRS. Further, a REIT
cannot have over 25 percent of its assets invested in non-qualifying securities or stock of
taxable REIT subsidiaries.” Id.
438
See Lartey, supra note 436.
439
See id.
440
See id.
441
See LAUREN-BROOKE EISEN, INSIDE PRIVATE PRISONS: AN AMERICAN DILEMMA IN THE
AGE OF MASS INCARCERATION 132 (2017).
442
See Lartey, supra note 436.
443
See id.
444
See Rob Urban & Kristy Westgard, It’s a Great Time to Be a Prison Landlord, Thanks
to the IRS, BLOOMBERG (Aug. 9, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-0809/private-prison-companies-expand-empires-thanks-to-tax-advantages, archived at https://per
ma.cc/3ZRB-XB88.
445
See, e.g., CoreCivic, Inc., FORM 10-K (2016), supra note 419, at 14.
446
See, e.g., Three-Quarter Houses: The View From the Inside, PRISONER REENTRY INSTITUTE (Oct. 2013), at v, vi, http://johnjaypri.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/PRI-TQH-Report
.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/9KZS-CQLW (pointing out how “no government agency
oversees or regulates the programs”); Susan Martin, Felons, Drug Dealers Run Halfway

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In 2018, CoreCivic realized earnings of $1.84 billion, an increase of $7
million from 2017.447 More than 90% of CoreCivic’s 2018 revenue resulted
from its “safety” business—that is, its facilities for incarceration, detention,
and alternative corrections.448 As of December 31, 2018, CoreCivic had an
$800 million line of credit from a syndicate of major banks, and had borrowed $201 million under that line of credit.449 Similarly, as of December
31, 2018, GEO Group had a $900 million line of credit with a syndicate of
banks, borrowing $490.8 million under this line of credit.450
Some politicians have criticized the ability of the private corrections
industry to operate as REITs; both Senator Ron Wyden (D-Or.) and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation to prevent
private corrections companies from receiving REIT tax subsidies, but these
bills have not yet passed either chamber of Congress.451
B. Pension Investments and Stock Holdings
Private corrections companies are deeply involved in alternative corrections, and the industry has expanded its focus to cover all aspects of the
criminal system. These companies often brand alternative corrections divisions differently, disguising their links to controversial for-profit prison conglomerates like GEO Group.452
Many investment and pension funds are invested in private corrections
REITS, placing millions of dollars in holdings in these vehicles. Vanguard
and Fidelity, the two leading investment companies in the United States,
own significant stock in CoreCivic and GEO Group.453 Additionally, many
Houses for Addicts, TAMPA BAY TIMES (Nov. 18, 2012), https://www.tampabay.com/news/
publicsafety/felons-drug-dealers-run-halfway-houses-for-addicts/1261881/, archived at https://
perma.cc/ED22-CSK6?type=image (noting that “[a]lmost anyone can open a halfway house
in Florida because there’s almost no regulation or accountability”); Jenny Wagner, Recovery
Road: The Road for Many Begins in Recovery Houses, BURLINGTON TIMES (Apr. 17, 2016),
https://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/article/20160417/NEWS/304179641, archived at
https://perma.cc/8Z22-ZT7E (reporting that in New Jersey, there is no training, certification,
third party oversight, or standards required to run recovery houses).
447
See John Egan, How One Private Prison REIT Is Trying to Diversify, NAT’L REAL
ESTATE INVESTOR (Mar. 22, 2019), https://www.nreionline.com/reits/how-one-private-prisonreit-trying-diversify, archived at https://perma.cc/U4NC-22WV.
448
See id.
449
See Habibi et al., supra note 423, at 3.
450
See id. at 4.
451
See Urban & Westgard, supra note 444.
452
For example, GEO Group’s treatment and rehabilitation facility in Lancaster, California, is called “Antelope Valley Day Reporting Center”—the Geo Group connection is not
advertised. See GEO GROUP, INC., ANTELOPE VALLEY DAY REPORTING CENTER, https://www
.geogroup.com/FacilityDetail/FacilityID/252, archived at https://perma.cc/Y6DF-UPU4. Likewise, the “Aurora Day Reporting Center and Electronic Monitoring”, in Aurora, California has
little to indicate to the outsider that Geo Group is the parent company. See GEO GROUP, INC.,
AURORA DAY REPORTING CENTER, https://www.geogroup.com/FacilityDetail/FacilityID/130,
archived at https://perma.cc/5MYU-PXWJ.
453
See Morgan Simon, What Do Big Banks Have to Do with Family Detention?
#FamiliesBelongTogether Explains, FORBES (Sept. 18, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/

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passively-managed index funds, often incorporated into mutual funds or
401Ks, own stock in private corrections companies as well.454 On top of
private investment, twenty-four states owned over $75 million in stock in
private prison companies as of February 2019.455 The investors include state
pension funds, teacher retirement funds, and public employee funds in states
such as New York, Ohio, and California.456 Many universities hold stock in
private corrections companies as well.457
Advocacy groups, including the American Federation of Teachers
(AFT), have begun demanding that public pension funds divest from any
holdings in private corrections companies.458 Specifically, AFT argues that
investing in private prisons creates moral and political risks.459 AFT also
argues that investment in private corrections companies carries financial
risks, including the multiple lawsuits against major private prison companies
filed every year and potential changes in state and federal law that would
reduce mass incarceration.460 As a result of such pressure, the New Jersey
Pension Fund, the Chicago Teachers Fund, and the California State Teachers’
Retirement System have all gotten rid of their direct holdings in private prisons.461 As of publication, Canada’s pension fund, the Canadian Pension Plan
Investment Board, is under pressure to drop the private corrections companies from their investment portfolio, given the size of the investment ($6.1

morgansimon/2018/09/25/what-do-big-banks-have-to-do-with-family-detention-familiesbelongtogether-explains/#538e5bec2b6a, archived at https://perma.cc/PT9T-Z5Q8.
454
The top ten mutual funds holding CoreCivic stock include Vanguard REIT Index Fund,
Vanguard Small Cap Index Fund, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index, Vanguard Small Cap
Value Index Fund, Fidelity Japan Fidelity US REIT, Vanguard Extended Market Index Fund,
the SPDR S&P Mid Cap 400 ETF Trust, and Fidelity Low Priced Stock Fund. See id.
455
See Liz Farmer, These Pension Funds Invest Millions in Private Prisons, GOVERNING
(Feb. 8, 2019), https://www.governing.com/week-in-finance/gov-pension-funds-investing-millions-private-prisons.html, archived at https://perma.cc/RQB4-MERL.
456
See id.
457
See Sarah Brodsky, Investors Question Private Prison Holdings, IMPACT INVESTIGATING EXCHANGE (Apr. 11, 2019), https://www.impactinvestingexchange.com/investors-question-private-prison-holdings/, archived at https://perma.cc/32LK-8EZW.
458
See Private Prisons and Investment Risks, Part II: How Private Prisons Fuel Mass
Incarceration, and How Public Pension Funds Are at Risk 3, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
TEACHERS (2019), https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/private-prisons-invest-2019-part2.pdf,
archived at https://perma.cc/LBG5-ZUDQ.
459
See id. at 8–9.
460
See id. at 9; Evie Fordham, $229 Billion California Teacher Retirement Program Cites
‘Human Rights’ Violations When Divesting from Private Prisons but Lists None, DAILY
CALLER (Nov. 8, 2018), https://dailycaller.com/2018/11/08/california-state-teachers-retirement-system-divest/, archived at https://perma.cc/KFE4-3V82.
461
See Farmer, supra note 455. Various holders of state pensions argue that a pension
fund’s foremost duty is to maximize wealth for its holders, not get caught up in political battles. Pension fund managers have a fiduciary responsibility to grow assets, something particularly important for underfunded state pension funds, which are often the only source of income
for retirees. See Christopher Burnham, Politicization of CalSTRS Hurts Returns, Harms Retirees, San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 6, 2018), https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/
article/Politicization-of-CalSTRS-hurts-returns-harms-13368391.php?psid=NCqn, archived at
https://perma.cc/JDW5-NP84.

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million dollars in GEO Group and $1.65 million in CoreCivic).462 A few
universities have also followed suit, divesting their stock holdings. In 2015,
Columbia University sold its shares in CoreCivic and G4S after student outcry.463 But most universities, including Harvard and Princeton, have held
onto their private corrections stock, resisting student pressure to divest.464
C. Federal Funds
Approximately 19% of all federal prisoners are incarcerated in private
prisons, run predominantly by GEO Group and CoreCivic.465 These two
companies are also in the market of private federal alternative corrections,
private federal probation supervision, and federal post-prison release, along
with companies like Management & Training Corporation, Emerald Correctional Management, LCS Corrections Services, and Community Education
Centers/CiviGenics.466 Moreover, approximately 70% of federal immigration
detention camps are also run by private corrections companies; the most
recent estimate was that private prison companies receive $800 million from
the federal government for immigrant detention centers alone.467 But federal
contracts are not the only way the federal government has encouraged the
growth of the for-profit corrections industry.
First, private corrections companies are exempt from taxpayer oversight
because Congress has failed to pass legislation requiring federal disclosure
of their processes.468 For example, since the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) does not apply to private corrections companies, the public is unable
to access any of their operations records.469 Without access to operational
and personnel information, it is difficult to discover misconduct at private

462
See Leyland Cecco, Canada Pension Fund Investment into US Detention Firm Larger
Than Reported, THE GUARDIAN (Dec. 3, 2018), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/
03/canada-pension-fund-investment-into-us-detention-firm-larger-than-reported, archived at
https://perma.cc/CQW5-VU6X.
463
See Brodsky, supra note 457.
464
See id.
465
See The Private Prison Industry, Explained, THE WEEK (Aug. 6, 2018), https://theweek
.com/articles/788226/private-prison-industry-explained, archived at https://perma.cc/S7Q4874F.
466
See CHRISTOPHER HARTLEY & CAROLINE GLESMANN, Nat’l Council on Crime & Delinquency, Prison Bed Profiteers: HOW CORPORATIONS ARE RESHAPING CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN THE
U.S. 5 (May 2012).
467
See Spencer Ackerman & Adam Rawnsley, $800 Million of Taxpayer Money Went to
Private Prisons Where Migrants Work for Pennies, THE DAILY BEAST (Dec. 27, 2018), https://
www.thedailybeast.com/dollar800-million-in-taxpayer-money-went-to-private-prisons-wheremigrants-work-for-pennies, archived at https://perma.cc/6LR3-42JF.
468
See Christina Fialho and Grisel Ruiz, Costly, Inefficient, and Unaccountable: The Case
for Outlawing Private Prisons, FORBES (Sept. 19, 2016), https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/
2016/09/19/the-case-for-outlawing-for-profit-prisons/#3db2d6f31dad, archived at https://per
ma.cc/MT6J-7A9R.
469
See id.

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corrections companies.470 Indeed, “the private prison industry operates in secrecy while being funded almost entirely with public taxpayer money.”471
Privatized alternative corrections facilities operate with an almost complete
lack of transparency, as they are not subject to the kind of oversight required
of state and federal prisons.472 No transparency means little, if any,
accountability.
The federal government’s limited regulation of money in politics allows
private corrections companies to buy influence over policymaking. Through
campaign contributions and lobbying, private corrections companies can distort criminal justice policy to blunt activist attacks on mass incarceration.473
For example, in 2015 and 2016, private corrections companies donated $2.75
million to lobby against President Obama’s effort to withdraw from private
federal prisons.474
Like the private prison industry, the for-profit alternative corrections
industry also makes major political contributions to federal lawmakers.
Campaign contributions allow these companies to wield considerable power
in Congress, developing and maintaining relationships that help in obtaining
the contracts for federal prisons, probation programs, and halfway houses.475
In the 2018 election cycle, private corrections companies donated almost
$1.2 million to members of Congress alone.476 The private corrections industry also spent $3.8 million on federal lobbying and $1.9 million on campaign
contributions in the 2018 campaign cycle.477
This monetary support has policy consequences. For example, the First
Step Act, which became law on December 21, 2018,478 garnered strong support from both GEO Group and CoreCivic.479 The First Step Act enacted
470

See Mike Tartaglia, Private Prisons, Private Records, 94 B.U. L. REV. 1689, 1694

(2014).
471
See Liliana Segura, With 2.3 Million People Incarcerated in the US, Prisons Are Big
Business, THE NATION (Oct. 1, 2013), https://www.thenation.com/article/prison-profiteers/,
archived at https://perma.cc/5G9C-J75L.
472
See id.
473
See HARTLEY & GLESMANN, supra note 466, at 13–14.
474
See Sara Swann, For-Profit Prisons: Background, OPEN SECRETS (May 2017), https://
www.opensecrets.org/industries/background.php?cycle=2018&ind=G7000, archived at
https://perma.cc/2T6K-WX2K.
475
See Hartley & Glesmann, supra note 466, at 13.
476
For Profit Prisons: Long Term Contribution Trends, OPEN SECRETS (Feb. 1, 2019),
https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/totals.php?cycle=All&ind=G7000, archived at https://
perma.cc/R4BY-3WF8.
477
See Sue Sturgis, As Bankers Back Away, For-Profit Prison Companies Step Up Political Spending, FACING SOUTH (Mar. 8, 2019), https://www.facingsouth.org/2019/03/bankersback-away-profit-prison-companies-step-political-spending, archived at https://perma.cc/
WD6U-RL5U.
478
See Van Jones & Jessica Jackson, Ten Reasons to Celebrate the First Step Act, CNN
(Dec. 21, 2018), https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/21/opinions/ten-reasons-to-celebrate-first-stepact-jones-and-jackson/index.html, archived at https://perma.cc/U6C9-G7L2.
479
See Karl Evers-Hillstrom, For-Profit Prisons Strongly Approve of Bipartisan Criminal
Justice Reform Bill, Open Secrets, December 20, 2018, https://www.opensecrets.org/news/
2018/12/for-profit-prisons-approve-of-bipartisan-criminal-justice-reform/, archived at https://
perma.cc/WC3T-JVDY.

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several sentencing reforms, including retroactively reducing the federal
crack-cocaine disparity, permitting federal judges more discretion at sentencing, and eliminating the “three strike rule.”480 The Act’s stated purpose is
to “to provide for programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison.”481
Putting the First Step Act into motion, however, will require quite a bit
of infrastructure.482 This provides a new business opportunity for private corrections companies, which have been rapidly expanding into alternative corrections and re-entry services.483 For example, the First Step Act encourages
contracting with for-profit companies for post-prison services,484 in part by
making way for both privatized in-prison programming and electronic monitoring.485 Additionally, the First Step Act requires a $375 million expansion
of post-prison services for convicted individuals re-entering society, something upon which companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group are ready to
capitalize.486
Nimble private corrections companies such as CoreCivic and GEO
Group can and do adapt easily to changes in the legal, tax, and regulatory
landscape. Using private-sector corrections companies might “pervert prison
reform into a neoliberal variation of convict leasing, in which industry and
state collude to ‘redeem’ society’s undesirables.”487
III. SOLUTIONS

AND

SAFEGUARDS

Private, for-profit companies are deeply embedded in the American
criminal legal system. Accordingly, this Article identifies short-term ways to
regulate, control, and limit the work of private corrections companies in the
alternative corrections sphere, particularly in their imposition of criminal
justice debt. This Part provides an overview of potential solutions and strategies to safeguard defendants caught in the web of criminal justice debt and
for-profit corrections, including controlling criminal justice debt, divesting
from the private corrections industry, increasing transparency, promoting
public watchdogs, improving media access to alterative corrections sites, en480

See id.
H.R. Cong. Res. 5682, 115th Cong. (2018).
See Segura, supra note 420.
483
See id.
484
See Steve Cortorno, Why is a Florida For-Profit Prison Company Backing Bipartisan
Criminal Justice Reform?, TAMPA BAY TIMES (Dec. 7, 2018), https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/12/07/why-is-a-florida-for-profit-prison-company-backing-bipartisancriminal-justice-reform, archived at https://perma.cc/VR97-HELJ.
485
See Peniel Ibe, The Problems with the First Step Act, AM. FRIENDS SERV. COMM. (Dec.
14, 2018), https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/first-step, archived at https://per
ma.cc/J3GD-9X4F.
486
See Cortorno, supra note 484.
487
Michelle Chen, How Prison Reform Could Turn the Prison-Industrial Complex into the
Treatment-Industrial Complex, THE NATION (Nov. 20, 2015), https://www.thenation.com/article/how-prison-reform-could-turn-the-prison-industrial-complex-into-the-treatment-industrialcomplex, archived at https://perma.cc/F6YK-MY3L.
481
482

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forcing punitive fines on companies that break the law, returning decisions
about probation violations to courts, and reforming tax structures to prevent
corrections companies from organizing as REITs.
Although these short- and medium-term reforms are important, the ultimate solution is to fully abolish for-profit actors in the criminal legal system.
This type of exploitative industry, driven primarily by profit, should have no
place in our justice system.
A. Controlling Criminal Justice Debt
People caught in the criminal legal system may face fines, fees, and
surcharges at every stage of the criminal process.488 Debt from alternative
corrections is most frequently imposed on people of color who are disproportionately criminalized, and people with low incomes who often struggle
to make payments.489 To reduce the harms of the criminal legal system, states
should take a number of steps to limit the criminal justice debt imposed on
low-income communities of color.
First, states should exempt indigent individuals from alternative corrections fees,490 including probation, drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, and any other payments commonly exacted from defendants, whether
collected by the state or private companies. In addition, municipalities, counties, and states should adopt specific written standards for judging a defendant’s ability to pay and should grant waivers to those who receive public
benefits or have incomes below the federal poverty line.491 Second, individuals should no longer be forced to work in “rehabilitative” labor camps that
require labor in dangerous factories or work conditions for no pay. Third, all
states and counties should ensure that no diversion programs are run for
profit. As discussed in Part I, diversion programs risk becoming an alternative to incarceration only for people with the wealth to pay the excessive
fees imposed by for-profit diversion programs, while defendants who cannot
afford the fees must accept a conviction and often jail time. We cannot have
a system in which only people with money can afford a second chance.492
For-profit diversion programs are especially unfair because fees are hardly
ever waived for indigent defendants.493

488

See ALICIA BANNON, MITALI NAGRECHA, & REBEKAH DILLER, BRENNAN CTR., CRIMIJUSTICE DEBT: A BARRIER TO REENTRY 4 (2010), http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/
default/files/legacy/Fees%20and%20Fines%20FINAL.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/
RTW7-H396.
489
Id. at 9.
490
See id. at 32.
491
See id.
492
See Shaila Dewan & Andrew W. Lehran, After a Crime, the Price of a Second Chance,
N.Y. TIMES (Dec. 12, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/12/us/crime-criminal-justicereform-diversion.html, archived at https://perma.cc/5Y5R-J4T6.
493
See id.
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Additionally, states should pay the costs of complicated civil registration and treatment requirements for defendants convicted of sex offenses.
Placing the burden of an endless array of registration fees, treatment fees,
polygraph fees, monitoring fees, and other repeated, required payments on
individuals who may not have the ability to pay achieves little in either community safety or general deterrence. Rather than promoting community
safety in the long term, debt from alternative corrections and aggressive collection practices creates barriers to successful community reintegration after
any formal punishment has ceased.494 Indeed, “the widespread practice in
American law is to impose economic penalties with uncertain chances of
collection and with insufficient concern for their long-term impact on defendant reintegration, recidivism, and public safety.”495
The burden of alternative corrections debt is compounded by the seemingly never-ending statute of limitations. In many places, a court’s jurisdiction to collect and enforce nonpayment of the debt may last for decades or
even a lifetime, long after the person was last charged, convicted of an offense, or completed her rehabilitation or probation.496 To truly reintegrate
individuals back into the community after conviction and release, we must
free them from the shackles of alternative corrections debt.
B. Divestment
One way to limit the role of private alternative corrections is to pressure
financial entities to divest from the private corrections industry. Protesters
have already successfully pushed lenders and pension holders to abandon
private prison companies and refuse to provide financing for new
facilities.497
Recently, several major banks have divested from the private corrections industry, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, PNC, Barclays,498
U.S. Bank,499 SunTrust Banks/BBT,500 BNP Paribas,501 and Bank of

494
See Jessica M. Eaglin, Improving Economic Sanctions in the States, 99 MINN. L. REV.
1837, 1838 (2015).
495
Kevin R. Reitz, The Economic Rehabilitation of Offenders: Recommendations of the
Model Penal Code (Second), 99 MINN. L. REV. 1735, 1739 (2015).
496
See Nick Allen, Alex Kornya & Rhona Taylor, Tackling Criminal Justice Debt,
CLEARINGHOUSE COMMUNITY (May 2017), https://www.povertylaw.org/clearinghouse/article/
tacklingdebt, archived at https://perma.cc/B4R4-YX4S.
497
See id.
498
See Renae Merle, Wall Street pulled its financing. Stocks have plummeted. But private
prisons still thrive., WASH. POST (Oct. 3, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/
2019/10/03/wall-street-pulled-its-financing-stocks-have-plummeted-private-prisons-stillthrive/, archived at https://perma.cc/R4Z2-FWXM.
499
See Private Prison Companies on the Ropes Following Banks’ Withdrawal Announcements, PRISON INDUSTRY DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT (Mar. 14, 2019), https://prisondivest.com/
2019/03/14/private-prison-companies-on-the-ropes-following-banks-withdrawal-announcements, archived at https://perma.cc/74DV-NAV8.

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America.502 As a result of such scrutiny, GEO Group and CoreCivic shares
have come under immense pressure.503 CoreCivic’s stock price dropped approximately 8% and GEO Group’s declined about 15%.504 Each stock
plunged more than 10% in July 2019 alone.505 Pressure to divest from GEO
Group and CoreCivic intensified last year after activists targeted the companies for running immigrant detention centers.506 Outrage over President
Trump’s immigration policy has increased pressure on Wall Street to drop
financial support for private companies working with ICE to detain noncitizens.507
Divestment is especially effective in combatting the private corrections
industry because these companies are organized as REITs and therefore depend heavily on debt structuring.508 The way REITs are structured means
they generally have very little cash on hand, and the companies must go to
the banks any time they wish to grow their businesses.509 As fewer banks are
willing to provide loans, borrowing has become more expensive, and the
REIT structure will be more difficult to maintain.510
New York State has been on the front lines of private prison divestment. Not only has New York forbidden private prisons from operating
within the state, it has also divested state pension funds away from GEO
Group and CoreCivic. In addition, the New York State Senate passed Bill
S5433 in June 2019,511 prohibiting New York State-chartered banks from
500
See Paul R. La Monica, Suntrust Is the Latest Bank to Stop Lending to Detention
Centers, CNN BUSINESS (July 8, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/08/investing/suntrustbanks-migrant-detention-centers/index.html, archived at https://perma.cc/7LB8-9JBM.
501
See Phil Serafino, BNP Paribas Plans to End Financing of Private Prisons, BLOOMBERG (July 13, 2019), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-13/bnp-paribasplans-to-end-financing-of-private-prison-operators, archived at https://perma.cc/W7R6VNAN.
502
See Lananh Nguyen, Bank of America Will Stop Lending to Private Prison Firms,
BLOOMBERG (June 26, 2019), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-26/bank-ofamerica-will-stop-lending-to-private-prison-companies, archived at https://perma.cc/P3QFAA9L.
503
See La Monica, supra note 500.
504
See Private Prison Companies on the Ropes, supra note 499.
505
See La Monica, supra note 500.
506
See Arvind Dilawar, Anti-ICE Activists Target PNC Bank for Funding Private Detention Centers, PAC. STANDARD MAG. (July 17, 2019), https://psmag.com/social-justice/anti-iceactivists-target-pnc-bank-for-funding-private-detention-centers, archived at https://perma.cc/
HCU9-3RDW; see also Jeremy Redmon, Georgia’s Largest Bank to Sever Ties With Private
Prison Industry, ATL. J. CONST. (July 8, 2019), https://www.ajc.com/news/breaking-news/
georgia-largest-bank-sever-ties-with-private-prison-industry/iPYNleDfLy7vM1qWq5lpoK,
archived at https://perma.cc/VB2Z-AJPT.
507
See Redmon, supra note 506.
508
See Private Prison Companies on the Ropes, supra note 499.
509
See Madison Pauly, The Private Prison Industry Just Suffered a Major Blow. And It
Could Just Be the Beginning, MOTHER JONES (Mar. 7, 2019), https://www.motherjones.com/
crime-justice/2019/03/jp-morgan-chase-divestment-private-prisons-lauren-brooke-eisen,
archived at https://perma.cc/2YF2-JAWJ.
510
See Private Prison Companies on the Ropes, supra note 499.
511
See Morgan Simon, New York Could Become First State to Be Completely Done with
Private Prisons, FORBES (June 18, 2019), https://www.forbes.com/sites/morgansimon/2019/06/

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“investing in and providing financing for private prisons.”512 This prohibition would also apply to foreign banks.513 If this bill becomes law, it could
have a significant impact on private correction company financing, starving
the companies of capital.514 Because the companies running private prisons
and private alternative corrections are frequently one and the same, this
should significantly chill the work of private alternative corrections in New
York State. There has also been recent movement in Congress to scrutinize
the role of major banks investing in the private prison industry, with calls for
oversight hearings515 and discussions of divesting altogether from private
corrections companies.516 Additionally, Representative Alexandria OcasioCortez (D-N.Y.) has vowed to use her seat on the Financial Services Committee to oversee private corrections companies.517
Because the private corrections companies running the alternative corrections industry are the very same ones maintaining private prisons and
detention centers, divesting from these companies kills two birds with one
stone. American citizens have collectively invested millions of dollars in
private corrections companies.518 Public worker funds have invested at least
$67 million in GEO Group and CoreCivic, according to filings from the first
quarter of 2019.519 Divestment could thus have a big impact.
Nonetheless, these companies are in little danger of going out of business any time soon.520 Several banks facing pressure to divest from private
prison companies, including Regions, Citizens, Pinnacle, First Tennessee,
and Synovus, have not publicly committed to divestment.521 Even with the
abovementioned banks’ divestment, Wall Street banks still provide a total of
$2.692 billion in credit arrangements.522 In addition, banks that have publicly
said they would no longer finance private prison firms are not keeping their
commitments equally: Bank of America extended an additional $90 million
18/new-york-to-become-first-state-to-be-completely-done-with-private-prisons, archived at
https://perma.cc/WHQ7-TXX.
512
S. 5433A, 2019–20 Leg., Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2019).
513
See Simon, First State, supra note 511.
514
See id.
515
See Pauly, supra note 509.
516
See Austin Weinstein, Maxine Waters Has a Plan to Get What She Wants from Wall
Street, BLOOMBERG (May 6, 2019), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-06/
maxine-waters-has-a-plan-to-get-what-she-wants-from-wall-street, archived at https://perma
.cc/TV8C-U2W4.
517
See Colin Wilhelm, Waters, Ocasio-Cortez, and Democrats Prepare to Push Financial
Services Committee into Social Issues, WASH. EXAMINER (Jan. 17, 2019), https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/economy/waters-ocasio-cortez-and-democrats-prepare-to-push-financial-services-committee-into-social-issues, archived at https://perma.cc/6GZH-9QXR.
518
See Max Siegelbaum, Millions in U.S. Taxpayers’ Money Invested in Private Prison
Firms, THE GUARDIAN (July 11, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/11/private-prison-firms-profiting-trump-immigration-policy, archived at https://perma.cc/4H4AJV6D.
519
See id.
520
See Merle, supra note 498.
521
Id.
522
See Habibi et al., supra note 423, at 2.

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revolving credit line to GEO Group shortly before announcing that it would
stop offering new financing.523
Likewise, university pension funds and general retirement account
holders may not even be aware of their funds’ investment in private corrections companies.524 The majority of U.S. universities have resisted calls from
students to divest from private corrections holdings, and the universities that
have divested only held a small amount of private corrections company
stock.525 Although a few universities have divested approximately $10 million in holdings, this is a minor amount for a $5 billion industry.526
The highest-impact blow to the for-profit corrections industry would be
if money management funds such as the Vanguard Group, the country’s second-largest management firm, renounced their interests.527 Today, Vanguard
owns approximately 12% of GEO Group stocks and 9% of CoreCivic.528 The
best outcome to hope for is that the current divestment by banks and universities has a domino effect, spurring a wholesale condemnation of the private
corrections industry.529
C. Transparency
For the most part, private, for-profit companies can continue to run alternative corrections with little oversight and accountability. All fifty states,
as well as the District of Columbia, have open records laws.530 However,
unless private contractors are specifically included in the statutory language,
entities run by private corrections companies are generally not subject to
state open access records laws.531 Aside from a few states, such as Connecti-

523
See Rachel Ensign, Bank of America Cut Off Private Prisons Weeks After Lending to
One, WALL ST. JOURNAL (July 2, 2019), https://www.wsj.com/articles/bank-of-america-cutoff-private-prisons-weeks-after-lending-to-one-11562059804, archived at https://perma.cc/
Y4JY-DJKH.
524
Rich Duprey, Are There Private Prison Stocks in Your Portfolio You Don’t Know
About?, MOTLEY FOOL (Oct. 16, 2016, 10:01 AM), https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/10/
16/are-there-private-prison-stocks-in-your-portfolio.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/SD7BQUBS.
525
See Haimy Assefa, An Uphill Battle’: Harvard Students Urge School to Pull Investments That Support Prisons, NBC NEWS (Sep. 3, 2019), https://www.nbcnews.com/news/usnews/uphill-battle-harvard-students-urge-school-pull-investments-support-prisons-n1038686,
archived at https://perma.cc/P4YQ-ME9X.
526
See Lauren-Brooke Eisen, What’s the Best Way to Hold Private Prisons to Account?,
BRENNAN CTR., (Dec. 13, 2017), https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/what-best-way-hold-private-prisons-account, archived at https://perma.cc/B5C2-9FLR.
527
See id.
528
Id.
529
See Pauly, supra note 509.
530
See CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON, PRIVATE PRISONS:
BASTIONS OF SECRECY 19 (2012).
531
See Chung Kao, Transparency Lacking in Private Prisons, SAN QUENTIN NEWS (Oct.
29, 2014), https://sanquentinnews.com/transparency-lacking-private-prisons, archived at
https://perma.cc/M5PP-U3HX.

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cut,532 Florida,533 Tennessee,534 and South Carolina,535 where legislation extends public records disclosures to private corporations taking government
money, FOIA requests are largely inapplicable to private corrections companies and their operations.536 Indeed, in 2006, Georgia passed a state statute
making “all reports, files, records, and papers of whatever kind relative to
the supervision of probationers by a private corporation” a confidential state
secret.537
In response to the lack of transparency in private corrections, Representative Sheila Jackson (D-Tex.) introduced H.R. 1980, the Private Prison Information Act of 2017 (PPIA).538 PPIA would require greater transparency
and FOIA access to the dealings of private prison companies.539 Under PPIA,
a record relating to any prison, correctional, or detention facility that incarcerates federal prisoners would be subject to FOIA.540 The bill was referred
to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, where it remained as of the end of 2019.541 In 2017, Senator Ben
Cardin (D-Md.) introduced S. 1728, which would likewise require federal
for-profit prisons to hew to the same disclosure requirements as publicly run
federal facilities.542 Specifically, S. 1728 would apply Freedom of Information statutes to private companies that manage prisons,543 opening the door to
records of all sorts of alternative corrections practices. This bill was referred
to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and then failed on December 31,
2018.544
Several lawsuits have attempted to force private corrections companies
to disclose records. In Vermont, Tennessee, and Texas, the ACLU and Prison
Legal News brought lawsuits against CCA (now a part of CoreCivic) to

532
CONN. GEN. STAT. § 1-200(1)(C) (2018) (defining agency, for the purpose of public
records disclosure, as “any implementing agency”); CONN. GEN. STAT. § 32-222(k) (2015)
(defining an implementing agency as any entity “designated and authorized by a municipality
to undertake a project”).
533
FLA. STAT. § 119.011(2) (2013) (covering any “public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency”).
534
TENN. CODE § 10-7-503(6) (2015) (“A governmental entity is prohibited from avoiding
its disclosure obligations by contractually delegating its responsibility to a private entity.”).
535
S.C. CODE ANN. § 30-4-20(a) (1976) (stating that a body “supported in whole or in
part by public funds or expending public funds” is subject to the Act).
536
See Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Private Prisons Lock Up Thousands of Americans With Almost No Oversight, BRENNAN CTR. (Nov. 8, 2017), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/
analysis-opinion/private-prisons-lock-thousands-americans-almost-no-oversight, archived at
https://perma.cc/HCK6-DBLF [hereinafter Eisen, No Oversight].
537
GA. CODE ANN. § 42-8-109.2 (2010).
538
See H.R. 1980, PRIVATE PRISON INFORMATION ACT OF 2017, 115th Congress.
539
See id.
540
See id.
541
See id; Eisen, No Oversight, supra note 536.
542
See Beryl Lipton, Senate Bill 1728 Would Make Private Prisons Subject to Freedom of
Information Act, MUCKROCK (Aug. 7, 2017), https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/
aug/07/senate-bill-1728-private-prison-foia/, archived at https://perma.cc/TP5M-LW5J.
543
S. 1728, PRIVATE PRISON INFORMATION ACT OF 2017, 115th Congress.
544
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force it to release its records under the states’ open records laws. The Vermont case settled, with CCA agreeing to release records of lawsuits filed
against it by the state’s inmates.545 Tennessee’s Court of Appeals ultimately
ruled that CCA was required to produce documents under the state records
law because it was the functional equivalent of a government agency.546
Lawsuits reached similar results in Texas547 and Louisiana.548
Private corrections companies’ widespread refusal to share information
creates barriers to justice for those caught up in the system of privatized
alternative corrections. Defendants, public defenders, and civil rights attorneys rarely have a right to information about the for-profit operations.549 This
lack of transparency continues to bolster the frequent mismanagement, neglect, and other types of abuse in private, for-profit alternative corrections
facilities.550 Moreover, the privatizing of the vast alternative corrections industry has negated any public accountability.
The need for more transparency also applies to state alternative corrections, where most of the business for private corrections companies lies.551
Only a few states, such as California, require for-profit corrections companies to hand over their operational data. California enacted the Public
Records Act in 1968 to support transparency and accountability and to proclaim that secrecy and democracy were incompatible.552 California takes the
public right to access records so seriously that in 2004, the right was incorporated into California’s state constitution.553 California courts have interpreted this provision to require broad disclosure, allowing only narrow
privacy exemptions.554
545
See Elizabeth Hewitt, Legal settlement extends public records laws to out-of-state
prison contractor, VT. DIGGER, Nov. 5, 2015, https://vtdigger.org/2015/11/05/legal-settlementextends-public-records-laws-to-out-of-state-prison-contractor/, archived at https://perma.cc/
G62V-8KAH.
546
See CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS, supra note 530, at 17.
547
See Private Prison Must Provide Information, COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE (Mar. 20,
2014), https://www.courthousenews.com/Private-Prison-Must-Provide-Information/, archived
at https://perma.cc/W8HR-5U3U.
548
See Fritz Esker, MacArthur Justice Center Settles Public Records Lawsuit with Private
Prison, LA. WKLY. (Aug. 17, 2017), http://www.louisianaweekly.com/macarthur-justicecenter-settles-public-records-lawsuit-with-private-prison/, archived at https://perma.cc/6D5YDGFJ.
549
See Eisen, No Oversight, supra note 536.
550
See id.
551
See Caroline Isaacs, Community Cages: Profitizing Community Corrections and Alternatives to Incarceration, AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE 5 (Aug. 2016), https://afscarizona.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/communitycages.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/
KA4C-KC9H.
552
See Zoe Loftus-Farren, A Battle Over California’s Public Records Law, Undark (Apr.
15, 2019), https://undark.org/article/battle-public-records-california/, archived at https://perma
.cc/87T4-FFFE.
553
See CAL. CONST. art. I, § 3.
554
See LEAGUE OF CALIFORNIA CITIES, THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS: A GUIDE TO THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT 6 (2017), https://www.cacities.org/Resources/Open-Government/THE-PEOPLE%E2%80%99S-BUSINESS-A-Guide-to-the-California-Pu.aspx, archived
at https://perma.cc/NF8J-7PE6.

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In Florida, similarly, citizens have a statutory right to request and view
Florida’s public records using the state’s Public Records Act: “All state,
county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying
by any person.”555 Florida residents are entitled to review the records of all
state, county, or municipal units of government, as well as any other public
or private entity acting on behalf of one of these agencies.556 This means that
any private, for-profit corrections company running an alternative corrections program or entity is subject to Florida’s public records act.557
States should be encouraged to interpret their current open records laws
to require any private corrections entities to provide records since they are
functional equivalents of a state or local agency. Private prison corporations
should have to abide by the same disclosure requirements as government-run
prisons, detention centers, and alternative corrections.558 Alternatively, separate legislation should require any private criminal justice entities, for-profit
or non-profit, to provide any records requested under an open access policy.
D. Public Watchdogs
Both state and federal governments should require outside, independent
monitors to drop in unannounced at all privately-run corrections facilities,
including prisons, jails, private probation firms, halfway houses, work
camps, detention facilities for sex offenders, and forensic mental health hospitals.559 An oversight corrections commission could help regulate and safeguard private prisons, jails, and private alternative corrections.560 By granting
an independent entity broad and unhindered access to private facilities and
programs, correctional personnel, defendants, and any data about these conditions and procedures, a more accurate view may emerge about their
operations.
Public watchdogs have received increasing attention in recent years.
The American Bar Association (ABA) endorsed oversight corrections commissions in 2010, urging states, the federal government, and counties to “establish public entities that are independent of any correctional agency to
regularly monitor and report publicly on the conditions in all prisons, jails,
and other adult and juvenile correctional and detention facilities operating

555

FLA. STAT. § 119.01(1) (2005).
See id. § 119.011(2).
557
Georgia has an Open Records Act very similar to Florida’s, allowing access to the
records of state, county, and municipal government entities, private entities that are performing
a service for public agencies, and nonprofit organizations that receive more than one-third of
their funding from tax funds. See GA. CODE ANN. §§ 50-18-70, 50-14-1 (2012).
558
See Eisen, No Oversight, supra note 536.
559
See id.
560
For an in-depth discussion of an oversight corrections commission, see Appleman,
Cashing in on Convicts, supra note 44, at 612–20.
556

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within their jurisdiction.”561 In addition, the ABA Section on Criminal Justice recently called for independent public entities to monitor and publicly
report on conditions in both public and private prisons, jails, and other correctional and detention facilities for both adults and juveniles in their jurisdictions.562 Senator Elizabeth Warren, while seeking the Democratic
nomination for president, called for an independent monitor for private corrections, including privatized alternative corrections, in a campaign platform.563 Senator Warren proposed appointing an independent Prison
Conditions Monitor inside the Department of Justice, whose job would be to
ensure enforceable quality standards, regularly audit and investigate contractors, and terminate their contracts if they fall short.564
Public watchdogs, whether independent or government-based, should
be combined with random, surprise assessments of conditions by either independent watchdogs or a state Attorney General’s civil rights division, to ensure accurate observations from these for-profit corrections entities. Public
watchdog investigations would help provide both transparency and accountability from the alternative corrections branch of the private corrections
industry.
E. Media Access
Media should have automatic access to all private corrections entities,
including alternative corrections.565 Journalists should be able to take tours,
speak to incarcerated people, people on probation, and people detained by
the treatment industrial complex, and observe the conditions of
confinement.566
By their very nature, alternative corrections entities are almost entirely
closed to the media.567 Federal, state, and local policies and practices generally make it difficult for journalists to report on prisons, jails, and other

561

See Criminal Justice Section, Report to the House of Delegates, AMERICAN BAR ASSO(Aug. 2008), http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/criminal_jus
tice_section_newsletter/crimjust_policy_am08104b.authcheckdam.pdf, archived at https://per
ma.cc/K5RW-CZ3D.
562
See Criminal Justice Section, Standards on Treatment of Prisoners, 23-11.2, External
Regulation and Investigation, AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION (Dec. 5, 2018), https://www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/publications/criminal_justice_section_archive/
crimjust_standards_treatmentprisoners/#23-11.3, archived at https://perma.cc/YZM6-3GEB.
563
See Elizabeth Warren, Ending Private Prisons and Exploitation for Profit, MEDIUM
(June 21, 2019) https://medium.com/@teamwarren/ending-private-prisons-and-exploitationfor-profit-cb6dea67e913, archived at https://perma.cc/THL7-UPTU.
564
See id.
565
However, people incarcerated in such entities must still be able to maintain their
privacy.
566
See Eisen, No Oversight, supra note 536.
567
See Jessica Pupovac, FOI Toolbox, QUILL (Aug. 7, 2012), https://www.quillmag.com/
2012/08/07/foi-toolbox-31/, archived at https://perma.cc/MD7N-XQL6.
CIATION

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criminal justice facilities.568 As a result, press access to correctional facilities
is a chronic problem. Media access rules vary from state to state, and can be
based on such varied sources as legislation, administrative regulation, individual cases, or some combination.569 Different states have different baselines for journalist entry, with some states generally allowing access and
other states having a baseline of media denial.570 California, for example, has
one of the most restrictive media access policies of any state.571 Spurious
security concerns or fear of negative publicity often ends up blocking media
access.572
This is doubly true for private corrections companies, which have even
less incentive to allow media access than government-run facilities. Although some private prison companies have press-access policies similar to
government-run prisons, or simply follow state or federal regulations, several have tried to avoid media scrutiny by arguing that, as private entities,
they need not allow access to journalists.573 This attitude is unacceptable.
Journalists, watchdogs, and any other concerned members of the public must
be allowed access to private alternative corrections, at a time of the media’s
choosing. “Access is a responsibility even if it has yet to be a guaranteed
right.”574
F. Enforcement of Punitive Fines Against Private
Corrections Companies
Private corrections companies face, at best, limited sanctions for abuses
in their facilities. Low fines are a small price to pay for companies that
otherwise profit from illegal practices and inhumane conditions. State and
federal governments must ensure that the fines charged to private, for-profit
corrections entities are high enough that the industry “finds it cheaper to
comply with a contract than to pay for noncompliance.”575

568
See Jonathan Peters, For Journalists Covering Prisons, the First Amendment is Little
Help, Colum. Journalism Rev. (July 3, 2018), https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/firstamendment-reporters-jail.php, archived at https://perma.cc/Q5H3-GYAM.
569
See id; see also Jessica Pupovac, Prison Access Policies: Transparency in Progress,
SOC. PROF. JOURNALISTS, https://www.spj.org/prisonaccess.asp#3, archived at https://perma
.cc/QSR3-G8AH.
570
See Pupovac, supra note 569.
571
See Helene Vosters, Media Lockout: Prisons and Journalists, MEDIA ALLIANCE (May
13, 2016), https://media-alliance.org/media-lockout-prisons-and-journalists-by-helene-vosters/,
archived at https://perma.cc/XF68-LRQP.
572
See Caitlin Curley, Shut Out: How Our Prison System Restricts Media Access,
GENFKD (May 23, 2016), http://www.genfkd.org/shut-prison-system-restricts-media-access,
archived at https://perma.cc/23R2-U56J.
573
See Peters, supra note 568.
574
Heather Ann Thompson, What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of America’s Prisons, THE
CONVERSATION (June 4, 2017), http://theconversation.com/whats-hidden-behind-the-walls-ofamericas-prisons-77282, archived at https://perma.cc/VD9R-46VQ.
575
Eisen, No Oversight, supra note 536.

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In New Mexico, for example, the private corrections healthcare company Centurion was first fined for providing poor medical care and then later
fined over $2.1 million for continued staffing shortages.576 New Mexico also
contracted with MHM577 to provide behavioral healthcare for incarcerated
defendants, but then ended up fining MHM almost $500,000 for poor services.578 Yet both companies, Centurion and MHM, are part of the same
larger company, Centurion Managed Care.579 A corrections company such as
Centurion, which trades under the name Centene Corporation,580 is so large
than these fines have little impact; for 2018, Centene’s total revenues were
over $60 million.581 Similarly, in Tennessee, CoreCivic was fined almost $2
million in 2018 for poor management and significant staffing shortages issues.582 This major fine, however, did not hinder the company’s profit. Total
revenue for CoreCivic for the fourth quarter of 2018 was $482 million, up
9.4% from the year before.583
Until and unless these punitive fines really affect the bottom line of
private corrections companies, there is little chance that imposing monetary
punishments will work to change their practices.
G. Returning Probation Violation Decisions to Courts
For-profit corrections companies have privatized enforcement and
usurped the local courts’ role in monitoring probationer behavior. As discussed in Part II.A, in some jurisdictions, private corrections companies ask
local courts to send defendants to jail or prison if they are unable to pay the
weekly fee to the company. In some courts, employees of private corrections
companies even prepare arrest warrants and give them to the court to sign
without any review.584 As Human Rights Watch documented, some courts
576
See Marisa DeMarco, State Fines Prison Health Care Companies Millions, KUNM
(Sept. 5, 2018), https://www.kunm.org/post/state-fines-prison-health-care-companies-millions,
archived at https://perma.cc/7JVK-NXXB.
577
MHM is a provider of healthcare services to government agencies, including correctional facilities, state hospitals, and juvenile facilities. See Our Services, MHM SERVICES, INC.,
http://www.mhm-services.com/about.html, archived at https://perma.cc/RU3H-RNQR.
578
See DeMarco, supra note 576.
579
See MHM SERVICES, supra note 577.
580
See Centene Corporation Reports 2018 Results and Increases 2019 Annual Guidance,
CENTENE CORPORATION (Feb. 5, 2019), https://investors.centene.com/news-releases/news-release-details/centene-corporation-reports-2018-results-and-increases-2019, archived at https://
perma.cc/KHH8-RWSW.
581
See id.
582
See Dave Boucher, Lawmakers Delay Tennessee Prison Authorization; CoreCivic Acknowledges $2 Million in Fines in 2018, THE TENNESSEAN (Apr. 10, 2018), https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/10/lawmakers-delay-tennessee-prison-authorizationcorecivic-acknowledges-2-million-fines-2018/501102002/, archived at https://perma.cc/
9DQW-Z7VN.
583
CoreCivic Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Financial Results, CORECIVIC
(Feb. 19, 2019), http://ir.corecivic.com/news-releases/news-release-details/corecivic-reportsfourth-quarter-and-full-year-2018-financial, archived at https://perma.cc/55U7-8A74.
584
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are so keen to delegate responsibility to private probation companies that
they allow company employees to routinely threaten people on probation
with jail time for failing to make payments or falling into arrears.585
In addition, some private probation companies determine employees’
bonuses by considering how many probationers pay their fines in a timely
manner.586 This structure creates an obvious conflict of interest, because
these very employees determine whether a probationer is able to pay a
weekly fee in the first place.587 Ability to pay determinations should only be
made by a court, not a for-profit company.
H. Tax Reform
In 2016, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Ending Tax
Breaks for Private Prisons Act.”588 The bill would prevent private corrections companies from taking advantage of various IRS tax breaks and exclusions, specifically the REIT status of the private corrections companies
discussed in Part II.589 Unfortunately, as of December 2019, the bill has languished in committee for three years.
REIT status was not intended to benefit private prison companies who
claim to be “renting” space to people they incarcerate.590 Instead, REITs
evolved during the 1960s to allow small investors to create real estate income, spurring community development.591 REIT status has otherwise been
used for senior living homes and community healthcare centers, allowing
such real estate to receive tax advantages, such as paying no income tax.592
Most of a company’s profits from property-related operations—approximately 90%—must be distributed to shareholders through dividends.593 As
long as this continues, the company continues to qualify for REIT status.594
585

See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, PROFITING FROM PROBATION, supra note 60, at 49.
Id. at 43.
587
See id. at 44.
588
See Ending Tax Breaks for Private Prisons Act, S.B. 3247, 114th Congress (2015–16).
589
See id. S.B. 3247 “amends the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from the definition of
‘taxable REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) subsidiary’ any corporation which directly or
indirectly: (1) operates or manages a prison facility or provides services at or in connection
with a prison facility; or (2) provides to any other person (under a franchise, license, or otherwise) rights to any brand name under which any prison facility is operated, subject to specified
exceptions.” Id.
590
See Gregory Meeks, Congress Must Stop Private Prisons from Receiving Tax Breaks,
THE HILL, (Dec. 1, 2017), https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/362658congress-must-stop-private-prisons-from-receiving-tax, archived at https://perma.cc/639RRD8Q.
591
Id.
592
Id.
593
Morgan Simon, In Wake of Wells Fargo Hearing, Private Prison Stocks Take Big Hit,
FORBES (Mar. 15, 2019), https://www.forbes.com/sites/morgansimon/2019/03/15/in-wake-ofwells-fargo-hearing-private-prison-stocks-take-big-hit/#379ca55d1a3b, archived at https://per
ma.cc/X7E4-QRZS.
594
See Rob Urban & Kristy Westgard, It’s a Great Time to Be a Prison Landlord, Thanks
to the IRS, BLOOMBERG (Aug. 9, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08586

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Although CoreCivic and GEO Group have taken steps to mimic traditional
REITs, including by leasing facilities instead of buying them,595 their core
business is very far from what REIT status was intended to protect. REIT
status should thus be prohibited for private corrections companies.
CONCLUSION
Criminal legal debt is a disturbingly common feature of alternatives to
incarceration. To save money, many state and local governments have imposed the cost of alternative corrections on the very people whom alternatives to incarceration purport to benefit. As for-profit corrections companies,
including GEO Group and CCA, expand into the alternative corrections
arena, they have transformed many diversion and treatment programs into
sources of revenue by imposing burdensome costs and fees on individuals
caught in the criminal legal system. This criminal legal debt perpetuates poverty, hinders re-entry, and can even lead to re-incarceration.
Our ultimate goal should be to eradicate the criminal legal debt arising
from alternative corrections. Until this happens, however, we must take as
many steps as possible to control and monitor the actions of such privatized
corrections companies, large or small. By demanding increased transparency, creating external watchdogs, insisting on more media access, pressuring the IRS to remove REIT status, increasing punitive fines on private
companies, returning control to courts, and requiring means testing for all
alternative corrections fees, the approximately 4.3 million Americans who
undergo correctional control outside of imprisonment can have a fairer,
safer, and actually rehabilitative experience post-conviction, free from the
shackles of criminal legal debt.

09/private-prison-companies-expand-empires-thanks-to-tax-advantages, archived at https://per
ma.cc/RUW6-A3UT.
595
See Meeks, supra note 590.

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