…Currently, post-prison reentry programs, such as halfway houses and day reporting centers, are largely run by local nonprofit organizations or, in some cases, smaller for-profit companies. Hininger notes the small, local nature of reentry services in his speech — and then claims that CCA can use its size and resources to “provide consistency and common standards” in different facilities, rapidly make new arrangements with multiple agencies “on an as-needed basis,” and “scale” (i.e, grow rapidly). These claims — bigger, faster, cheaper — echo those often made by Walmart supporters to explain why the company is superior to local businesses.
CCA’s plan to become the Walmart of reentry may be good for its investors, but it should alarm the rest of us. First, the for-profit prison industry’s history of abuse, neglect, and mismanagement raises serious questions about what kinds of abuses would occur if we hand over control of even more elements of our criminal justice system to CCA and similar profit-driven companies. Second, CCA fights aggressively to shield its operations from public scrutiny — even though incarceration and rehabilitation are some of the government responsibilities where transparency and accountability are most important.
At their best, halfway houses and day reporting centers can provide much-needed support, psychological help, educational services, and substance abuse treatment during a difficult period of transition between full-scale incarceration and post-sentence release to the community. But at their worst, they can fester with violence and sexual abuse as well as fail to address the serious needs of the people in their care. Given CCA’s track record, we should be worried that vital reentry services are under threat.