In addition to being the Outreach and Organizing Director for In The Public Interest, I also lead our work on private prisons and profiteers in the criminal justice system. Just about every day I read a news story that shocks my conscience, learn a new fact that defies logic and good policy sense, or unearth a tidbit that challenges my conception of a justice system that is meant to treat everyone fairly in the eyes of the law. In short, I’ve learned a lot about how much money our country spends to maintain the highest incarceration rate in the world and where that money goes.
Too often, funding for prisons and the wider criminal justice system isn’t being spent on education and job training for people who are incarcerated or effective reentry programs and mental services in our communities. When for-profit corporations take over correctional facilities, our tax dollars pay not just for correctional officers and administrators, but for fancy corporate headquarters, quarterly profits for shareholders, marketing materials, lobbying and of course, compensation for corporate executives.
Just how much public money is going to the people running CCA and GEO? As it turns out: a lot.
In 2014, taxpayers here and in other countries ponied up just under $10 million for the top six executives at GEO Group.
We paid nearly $12 million in total compensation for the top six executives running CCA in 2014.
Over the last three years, the top 12 executives at both corporations have earned a whopping $58,759,145, before accounting for “performance based” stock awards.
Americans across the political spectrum are joining together to reform the criminal justice system in the face of untenable spending levels. By changing sentencing policy to reduce populations and restricting the ability for corporations to profit from crime and punishment, we can divert critical resources to where they belong: improving conditions for inmates and correctional officers alike and properly funding community-based programs that keep our neighbors from ever entering the criminal justice system. And that’s a fact that gives me hope.