These Are The 3900 Companies Profiting Off The Prison Industrial Complex

Written by Ann Brown
Prison Industrial Complex

Government agencies spent $80 billion annually to incarcerate people and more than half of that is used to pay the thousands of outside vendors. They include healthcare providers, food suppliers, and commissary merchants, among others. The prison industrial complex is still alive and kicking.

According to a new report, there are nearly 4,000 companies who profit off the private prison industry. The report comes from criminal justice advocacy group Worth Rises and is based on a database run by the organization that counts a total 3,900 companies in 12 sectors that profit from the prison industrial complex. This is an increase of 800 corporations from last year’s report, according to Common Dreams.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 53: Frederick Hutson Part 1: Jamarlin talks to justice-tech pioneer Frederick Hutson, who founded Pigeonly to create communications products for inmates and their families that reduce the destructive impact of incarceration.

The government deals with private companies in almost every sector — and it spends a lot of money with them.

According to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm, the correctional food-service industry provides the equivalent of $4 billion worth of food each year. “Corrections departments spend at least $12.3 billion on health care, about half of which is provided by private companies. Telephone companies, which can charge up to $25 for a 15-minute call, rake in $1.3 billion annually. The range of for-profit services is extensive, from transport vans to halfway houses, from video visitations to email, from ankle monitors to care packages,” The Nation reported.

Many publicly traded private-prison contractors are also divisions within companies with household names like Amazon, General Electric, and Stanley Black & Decker. In addition, dozens of boutique firms are dipping deep into the corrections-industry well, from Wall Street Prison Consultants, which provides advice to white-collar offenders, to a lawn-mower service that sells only to prisons. “We’ve underestimated the size of the prison-industrial complex,” Tylek said. “Every estimate you’ve seen until now is a conservative one.”

“Before this report, many of the companies involved in the prison industrial complex flew below the radar, often intentionally to avoid the headline risk that comes with profiting off mass incarceration today,” said Bianca Tylek, the executive director for Worth Rises, said in a statement. “This data brings these companies to light and equips advocates with the information needed to challenge them.”

Tylek added: “In publishing this report, we continue to expose the multi-billion-dollar industry built off the vulnerable communities—disproportionately Black, brown, and cash poor—targeted by the criminal legal system.”

And because this is so, many feel it is a violation of the human rights of the imprisoned.

“Today, a handful of privately held companies dominate the correctional-services market, many with troubling records of price gouging some of the poorest families and violating the human rights of prisoners,” The Nation reported.