New Report Exposes How For-Profit Prison Corporations Co-Opt Prisoner Treatment and Rehabilitation for Monetary Gain

November 18, 2014



(Phoenix, AZ; Austin, TX; Atlanta, GA)-Today, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Grassroots Leadership, and the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) released a groundbreaking report that exposes the ways in which for-profit prison corporations are adapting to historic reductions in prison populations by seeking out new markets previously served by non-profit behavioral health and treatment-oriented agencies. 

“The Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain,” highlights the expansion of the incarceration industry away from warehousing people and into areas that traditionally were focused on treatment and care of individuals involved in the criminal justice system:

  1. Prison and jail subcontracted medical care
  2. Forensic mental hospitals and civil commitment centers
  3. ‘Community corrections’ programs such as halfway houses and home arrest.

It has been extensively reported that the United States boasts one of the highest rates of correctional control, with one of every thirty-one people being behind bars or on probation or parole. The current economic climate has spurred a majority of states to reform expensive and ineffective incarceration polices that do not contribute to public safety; perpetuate the cycle of crime, and erect barriers for successful reentry into society. 

As states streamline their correctional expenditures to bring costs in line with best practices, The Treatment Industrial Complex reveals that the profit-based business model is at odds with the goal of running effective and fair criminal justice systems at the lowest reasonable cost.

Report author Caroline Isaacs warns, “with the profitization of treatment and alternatives, there is a perverse incentive to ensnare more individuals, placing them under increased levels of supervision and surveillance, for increasing lengths of time. This runs contrary to the best practices in the field.”

Research into the performance of private entities in the criminal justice system shows that cost savings do not materialize, and purported efficiencies come at the expense of public safety. Some common problems include:

•Private prison companies have a financial interest in constantly expanding the number of people under some form of correctional control

•Many governments fail to do the “due diligence” on the various corporations, choosing instead to focus on promised cost savings that rarely materialize

•Mismanagement, neglect, abuse, and malpractice on the part of all  of the major for-profit prison corporations has given rise to a number of lawsuits across the country, resulting in millions of dollars in settlements and damages.

The report describes the Treatment Industrial Complex, raises critical questions for decision-makers, and offers guidelines that are important in guiding decisions regarding treatment.

For a copy of the report, please visit


The American Friends Service Committee is a non-profit organization that works for justice and human rights both nationally and internationally.  The Arizona office, based in Tucson, advocates for criminal justice reform.

Grassroots Leadership fights to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education. Grassroots Leadership builds bridges between communities to increase the capacity of local leaders and coalitions, mobilize opposition to privatization, and transform the immigration and justice systems.

The Southern Center for Human Rights is a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, and provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.



Caroline Isaacs, American Friends Service Committee,, (520) 256-4146

Eshe Cole, Grassroots Leadership,, (512) 971-0487

Kathryn Hamoudah, Southern Center for Human Rights,, (404) 688-1202