America’s high rates of incarceration and recidivism have become heavy burdens for communities, the economy, and taxpayers. How Private Prison Companies Increase Recidivism, a new research brief from In the Public Interest, details how private prison companies add to that burden by increasing recidivism.

The brief shows that people incarcerated in prisons operated by for-profit companies, like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, have higher rates of recidivism than people incarcerated in publicly managed prisons. Evidence also suggests that prison telephone and video call companies make business decisions that increase the likelihood that prisoners subjected to their services will return to prison or jail.


The brief, which reviews academic studies, government reports, and investigations from research organizations, finds that private prison companies increase recidivism in a number of ways:

  • Private prisons are more violent than public prisons.

  • To fill empty beds in facilities they own, private prison companies contract with states to incarcerate people in facilities that can be far away from those prisoners’ homes. As a result, prisoners lose contact with their families and communities.

  • Prison telephone companies charge high calling rates and fees and influence legislators to ban prisoner cell phones, which has the combined effect of reducing the contact between prisoners and their home communities.

  • Prison video call companies ban in-person visitation and then charge prisoners and their families prohibitive rates to make video calls.



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This brief was released as part of Programs Not Profits, a multi-year campaign that promotes replacing private profits that hurt incarcerated people, correctional officers, and taxpayers, with publicly funded and managed programs that provide job training, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment. See more about the campaign here.

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