• Politically connected private prison operators are landing more business Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is sending more inmates to out-of-state prisons run by a private company that recently made a $100,000 donation to a ballot campaign committee controlled by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Daily Journal legal publication reports.

    ScreenHunter_04 Nov. 23 10.07Matthew Pordum of the Daily Journal reports CDCR has agreed to send an additional 2,336 inmates to prisons operated by Corrections Corp. of America, in an extension of a contract with the company that is worth more than $54 million a year.  Six months before the CDCR decision, Corrections Corp. of America contributed $100,000 to Budget Reform Now, the committee organized to campaign for six state budget-related measures supported by Schwarzenegger on a special election ballot in May.

    A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman told Pordum there was no connection between the donation and the contract extension, saying the governor had nothing to do with the extension.

    The Journal story has more details about CCA’s political spending:

    “We are politically active and make contributions to Democrats and Republicans alike all over the country, as do all companies of our size and reach,” said Louise Grant, vice president of communications at Corrections Corp.

    Corrections Corp. donated $234,500 in 2007-08, and $38,900 so far this year, to several members of the California Legislature and the state Democratic and Republican parties, according to its filings with the Secretary of State.

    The firm has also reported spending about $45,000 for each of the last three quarters on lobbyists in California.

    The state began sending some inmates to CCA prisons in 2006 in response to Schwarzenegger’s emergency proclamation on prison overcrowding.  If the legislature approves the spending for the extension, California’s contract with CCA would be valued at more than $224 million a year, with state inmates housed at facilities in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

    The Schwarzenegger administration is not wholly responsible for the decision to send inmates to private prisons. The Legislature approved AB 900 in 2007 giving the state greater authority to transfer felons to private prisons outside the state.

    The Florida-based prison prison firm, the Geo Group, also is seeking more California inmates. Geo is a significant campaign spender, giving $50,000 in October 2008 to the Schwarzenegger-backed Proposition 11 redistricting initiative.

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