Treatment Industrial Complex


Over the last 30 years, private prison companies have capitalized on growing rates of incarceration in the United States and abroad. In particular, companies such as GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) have often been able to influence prison, immigration detention, and sentencing policy to ensure their interests are met. New prison reform and smart on crime policies that encourage reduced incarceration rates and prioritize community alternatives to detention are threatening corporate profit margins. Given these new industry threats, GEO Group, CCA, and a new conglomerate of prison companies are looking for new sources of profit.

While the prison industrial complex is dependent on incarceration or detention in prisons, jails, and other correctional institutions, this emerging “Treatment Industrial Complex” or TIC allows the same corporations to profit from providing treatment-oriented programs and services. This includes moving to capitalize on efforts at the state and federal levels to look at alternatives to prison, a softening of criminal sentencing laws, and a new interest in evidence-based practices in parole, probation, and sentencing.

The Treatment Industrial Complex includes the privatization of 1) psychiatric care facilities and civil commitment facilities for individuals convicted of violent sexual offenses, 2) mental and medical health care in prisons where private contracts manage close to a third of the care and 3) community corrections. The community corrections component is a particularly promising profit source given that it includes a variety of treatment services historically delegated to probation and/or parole, halfway houses, day reporting centers, home arrest, surveillance, and electronic monitoring. Overall, two-thirds of individuals involved in the criminal justice system are under some sort of community supervision, not behind bars.

Given that private prison corporation’s bottom line is to make a profit, this oftentimes results in significant cuts to staff and much need services. The repercussions of these detrimental practices are evidenced in the abysmal track records of these companies whose histories are spotted with numerous instances of abuse, neglect, death, and lawsuits. Allowing these private prison companies to operate treatment programs increases the likelihood that these instances of abuse will continue and that the degree of quality care would decrease due to significant spending reductions. More importantly, profit motive incentivizes keeping people under supervision. This is in direct contradiction with and discourages sound efforts at treatment.

As a result, this emerging Treatment Industrial Complex has the potential to ensnare more individuals, under increased levels of supervision and surveillance, for increasing lengths of time—in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life. In November 2014, Grassroots Leadership released a report in collaboration with American Friends Service Committee and Southern Center for Human Rights provides in-depth insight into the nature of this growing phenomenon. See the full report here. 

Grassroots Leadership believes that no one should profit off the incarceration of human beings.  We also believe that turning over treatment and community services to for-profit prison corporations is the wrong way forward. Through advocacy, coalition building, and connection to on-the-ground movements, we are committed to putting a halt to the expansion of private prison profits into new and broader treatment based markets.


InCorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement, Cate Graziani and Eshe Cole, March 2016.

The Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain, Co-Published with Caroline Issacs (American Friends Service Committee) and Southern Center for Human Rights, November 2014.


Related Posts

Grassroots Leadership responds to private prison corporations' statements to investors

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, Grassroots Leadership responded to investor conference calls held last week by private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.   In the calls, company executives reported on earnings from 2016’s second quarter and spoke of the financial outlook moving forward.

“These statements show that policy reforms that are good for immigrants, good for those tied up in the criminal justice system, and good for taxpayers are bad for private prison corporations,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.   “Policy-makers should prioritize reforms that reduce the number of people behind bars and , not policies that line the pockets of private prison corporation executives.” [node:read-more:link]

Mar 9, 2016
Palm Beach Post

Here’s how business makes money off the state’s mentally ill and sex offenders

As the public rethinks harsh mandatory sentences swelling prison populations, a GEO Group offshoot and other private prison firms are focusing on another cash-for-inmates opportunity: privatization of state mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, particularly in Florida and Texas.

Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based criminal justice advocacy group, is taking aim at this “net-widening,”especially in Florida and Texas,  with a report released Wednesday.

It’s a perfect profit center, the report’s authors said, because unlike traditional prisoners, terms of confinement can leave people there indefinitely.

Some aren’t going to make it out alive, such as the mental patient who died in a scalding bathtub in South Florida State Hospital, the tissue on his face “sloughing” off, as The Post reported in 2013.

As problems have surfaced at GEO-run facilities, protests have grown.

Last month, another man died in  the state’s privately run 198-bed Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center. He had reportedly been punched by another inmate.

If Grassroots’ criticism of mental health and civil commitment centers seem familiar, so does the company involved. Boca Raton-based GEO Group spun off its medical unit a few years back; the spinoff became part of Correct Care Solutions LLC. A former GEO executive became  president and CEO of Correct Care. [node:read-more:link]

Mar 9, 2016

Stop the treatment industrial complex

As more individuals are being treated and rehabilitated both inside and outside prison walls, for-profit companies are stepping in and profiting. Community corrections is particularly expansive, and includes an array of out-of-jail programs like probation and parole services, halfway houses, day reporting centers, drug and alcohol treatment programs, home confinement, electronic monitoring, and various supportive services such as educational classes and job training. Although many of these services are provided by public-sector and nonprofit entities, the expansive reach of treatment and rehabilitation is increasingly attracting for-profit companies. Their success depends not on being effective, but in keeping as many people as possible under supervision for as long as possible. The lengthier, deeper and more expansive the treatment, the greater the profit.

Read more: 
Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook [node:read-more:link]