The Dirty 30 | #13 Columbia Training Center Juvenile Abuse

In 2013, Corrections Corporation of America is "celebrating" its thirtieth anniversary.  We believe there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of profiting off of incarceration.  In response Grassroots Leadership and Public Safety and Justice Campaign published "The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About Thirty Years of Corrections Corporation of America," a list of thirty stories that exhibit the most troubling aspects of the company's history.  Each week we'll highlight one of these stories.  Click here to view the full report.  Printed copies are available in limited quanitity.  For more information please contact Kymberlie Quong Charles.

Juveniles are frequently taken advantage of as amongst the most vulnerable population in the criminal justice system. One of the oldest and most egregious examples comes from CCA’s Columbia Training Center, a now-shuttered facility in Richland, South Carolina.

The Columbia Training Center was renovated from a mental health treatment center into a juvenile detention facility in the 1990s. Originally run by Rebound, it was intended to hold young offenders temporarily until they could be placed in a wilderness treatment program. [1] In 1996, the state decided to end its contract with Rebound and instead rely on Corrections Corporation of America to manage the facility. CCA took control in June; by August, seven young people incarcerated there had escaped (all were recaptured). CCA blamed the building, saying that it was never meant to house 400 people.

Seven escapes pale in comparison to the rampant allegations of abuse that came out of the Columbia Training Center. A lawsuit filed on behalf of William P, a fourteen-year old boy, successfully demonstrated that the boy had not just been physically abused, but that such abuse was an outcome of a CCA corporate policy of using excessive force to control teens at the center. [2] William, who was five feet tall and under 100 pounds, was maced, hog-tied, and placed in a cell with a much larger boy known to be a violent risk. [3] His story was repeated by teens who alleged similar abuse, such as being dragged through urine, improperly shackled, and subjected to teargas. A jury reached a verdict against CCA for $3 million in punitive damages after finding that the facility had a policy or practice of abusing kids. CCA was also ordered to pay $125,000 in damages to William P. Only a year into CCA’s operation of the facility, South Carolina ended its contract with CCA, citing numerous problems and continued dissatisfaction.

  1. “Jail firm may run juvenile facility,” St. Petersburg Times, February 26, 1997.
  2. Private Corrections Working Group, “South Carolina Hall of Shame,” December 15, 2000.
  3. Tara Herival and Paul Wright, eds. (2007) Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., pg. 174.