[Pnews] Five Corporations You've Never Heard of Are Making Millions From Mass Incarceration

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 19 17:29:13 EST 2015

    Five Corporations You've Never Heard of Are Making Millions From
    Mass Incarceration

Monday, 19 January 2015 09:47 By James Kilgore 
<http://truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/49334>, Truthout 
<http://truth-out.org> | News Analysis

Likely the most well-known prison profiteers in the United States are 
the Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. Between them, 
these two firms pulled in about $3.3 billion last year running scores of 
private prisons and immigration detention centers.

However, these two firms are not alone feasting at the trough of 
corrections expenditure. Many other companies, most of them off the 
popular radar, are also benefiting from epidemic prison and jail 
building. Some may even be even operating in your neighborhood. Here 
we'll do a quick sketch of five such companies, outline their 
activities, ponder their deeds of infamy, and reflect a little on how to 
curtail their profiteering.

*No. 1: Turner Construction: If We Build it They Will Come*

Let's start with the construction sector. Prison construction managers 
don't come with a tool box and a pick-up. They are world-class 
operators. The largest player in this field is New York-based Turner 
Construction, a subsidiary of the German giant Hochtief.

According to IbisWorld, Turner's average annual income for prison and 
jail construction came to $278 million per year from 2007 to 2012. This 
represents lots of money in most quarters, but qualifies as only 
slightly more than pocket change to a firm that earned $9 billion in 
total revenue for 2013. In almost a century and a half of operation, 
Turner has been involved in building New York's Lincoln Center for the 
Performing Arts, Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium and constructing 
corporate headquarters for Boeing and the RAND Corporation. It has about 
5,000 employees worldwide.

Despite prisons and jails not being their core business, they are still 
virtually omnipresent in the sector. Turner did construction management 
for a 6,000-bed facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana, participated in an 
$800 million overhaul of several state prisons in Pennsylvania in 2009, 
led work on jail construction in Forsyth County, Georgia ($100 million), 
Fort Bend County, Texas ($75 million), Johnson City, Kansas ($50 
million), Kenton County, Ohio ($41 million), as well as on two jails 
custom-built for Corrections Corporation of America in Georgia's Wheeler 
and Coffee counties at an estimated total cost of $80 million.

The demand for bigger and more secure court facilities prompted Cook 
County in Illinois to contract Turner in 2009 for the $110 million 
renovation of Chicago's Everett Dirksen Court House. The Army Corps of 
Engineers employed Turner to upgrade their Detroit Border Patrol Station 
for $14 million in 2013.

Like many of the firms that reap profits from the prison-industrial 
complex, they keep quiet about it. Their website highlights their role 
as the "leading builder of green buildings." They also proclaim on their 
website <http://www.turnerconstruction.com/about-us/core-values>: "We 
have the highest ethical standards in the industry. We "do the right 
thing." Perhaps doing the right thing might include pulling out of 
prison and jail building altogether, especially since an income cut of 
$278 million would reduce their annual revenue only by about 3 percent.

*Number 2: BI Incorporated: Keeping Track of "Offenders"*

Colorado-based, BI Incorporated manufactures electronic monitors. They 
specialize in cutting edge GPS-based devices that deliver real-time 
location tracking. BI also offers technology for monitoring of alcohol 
consumption through an ankle bracelet or a remote breathalyzer known as 
Soberlink. BI monitors about 60,000 people at any given moment in all 50 

BI also contracts with state and county authorities to supervise people 
on electronic monitoring, in essence offering a form of privatized 
probation and parole. This supervision is typically done through 
"community-based" electronic monitoring offices. In most of their 
"community" corrections work, they stress the notion of user pays. In 
some instances, BI "probation" officers are expected to be the 
collection agents for these fees. Former employees have reported to 
Truthout that they received a bonus if they passed a certain target in 
collecting fees for services from their clients. In addition to 
community-based offices, BI operates a national call center from 
Indianapolis, which tracks all those on BI GPS monitors across the country.

While traditionally BI's monitoring market has focused on those involved 
directly in the traditional criminal justice system, in 2009, BI entered 
a new field: immigration. They signed a five year, $372 million contract 
with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to intensively supervise 
up to 27,000 people who were awaiting judgment in deportation or asylum 
cases, but not held in detention centers. The ICE contract was renewed 
in 2014 
though reduced to roughly $235 million for five years.

BI was an independent firm for over two decades, but their contract with 
ICE made them an attractive target for acquisition. Hence, in 2011, the 
GEO Group bought out BI for $415 million 
GEO Group's acquisition of BI was in line with the increasing 
specialization of private prison companies in immigration. While the 
private prisons own or operate only about 8 percent of prison beds 
across the country, they control more than 40 percent of the immigration 
detention cells. However, acquiring BI also helped position GEO to limit 
the extent to which BI might market electronic monitoring as an 
alternative to incarceration. More people out of prison on ankle 
bracelets could mean plummeting profits for the GEO Group prison operations.

*Number 3: Aramark: Would You Like a Maggot with Your Meal?*

Some Truthout readers might actually be familiar with Aramark's role in 
food service provision in colleges and universities. Their dedicated 
higher education website <http://aramarkhighereducation.com/> proclaims 
the company offers a "total hospitality experience . . .  customized for 
each higher ed institution we work with." In 2014, Fortune magazine 
included Aramark on its list of "World's Most Admired Companies," and 
Ethisphere added them to the list of "World's Most Ethical Companies."

Aramark markets itself as a "green" corporation, taking credit for the 
recycling of 17.8 million pounds of waste on the campuses it services 
via participation in the Coca Cola-sponsored Recyclemania Program. In 
2013, its revenue was just under $14 billion. It employs 162,000 
people worldwide.

While the company wins prizes for its work in higher education and 
upmarket conference centers, far less well known are Aramark's 
operations in more than 600 correctional facilities in which they serve 
more than a million meals per day. They hold or have held food contracts 
with state prison systems in Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, 
Michigan and Ohio as well as with dozens of county jails. The two-year 
contract with Ohio in 2013 involved $110 million. A similar agreement 
with Michigan was concluded for $145 million.

While these contracts have been healthy for corporate bottom lines, they 
have brought Aramark far more reprimands than accolades. Their 
reprimands include $200,000 in fines 
in Michigan for food shortages and a $142,000 penalty in Ohio 
<http://www.nbc24.com/news/story.aspx?id=1033125> for not hiring enough 
staff, as well as other infractions.

Apart from shortages, there were also a series of reports of maggots 
in the food in both states. While Corrections authorities later absolved 
Aramark from responsibility for the presence of maggots in Michigan, the 
numerous Ohio prisons, where Aramark operations coincided with the 
presence of maggots, registered no denials of the company's guilt.

These problems in Michigan and Ohio are but the latest chapter in 
carceral food service debacles involving Aramark. Florida terminated a 
contract with Aramark in 2008 after repeated violations. In addition, 
Aramark employees have been involved in a number of activities deemed 

An Aramark employee in Indiana was charged with a felony for delivering 
marijuana and a cellphone to prisoners. In Michigan in 2014, four 
Aramark employees were suspended for allegedly having illicit sexual 
contact with male prisoners in a walk-in kitchen cooler, and dozens of 
other former Aramark staff have been permanently banned from Michigan 
state prisons.

While they may be winning prizes on college campuses, Aramark clearly 
has lower standards when it comes to serving people behind bars.

*Number 4: Securus Technologies: Justifying $1.3 billion in Kickbacks*

Securus Technologies specializes in telecommunications in prisons and 
jails. It currently is the second largest provider of carceral phone 
services. The company was acquired by Castle Harlan, Inc., a New 
York-based private equity corporation, in 2011 for an estimated $450 
million. Securus currently operates in some 2,200 correctional 
facilities in North America.

For years, companies like Securus have been winning phone contracts by 
overcharging customers, then paying kickbacks to state departments of 
corrections and local sheriffs. Nationally, the FCC estimates that 
kickbacks come to over $400 million annually. All of these kickbacks, 
officially called "site commissions" are legal - written right into the 

Illinois is a typical example of Securus's operations in this world of 
phone superprofits. The company currently holds the phone contracts in 
76 of the state's 102 county jails, as well as the lucrative pact 
covering some 48,000 men and women in Illinois Department of Corrections 
(IDOC) prisons.

In 2012, the kickbacks for the state prison contract alone put some $12 
million back into the IDOC's coffers. For a person in an Illinois state 
prison, any intrastate phone call, even a one-minute conversation, will 
cost $4.05. Plus, to pay for the call, family members must deposit a 
minimum of $25 in a pre-paid account, and pay an extra fee of $7.95 to 
be able to make the deposit. At the county level, some rates are even 
higher, with some callers paying up to $7.55 for a 15-minute local call.

Securus has vigorously defended the $1.3 billion in kickbacks it has 
paid out over the last decade. Company CEO Richard Smith argued that 
"Clearly these commission payments that have been used to fund critical 
inmate welfare programs and support facility operations and 
infrastructure have improved the lives of inmates, victims, witnesses 
and individuals working in the correctional environment, and helped to 
fund government operations."

A national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, involving more than 50 
vehemently disagrees with Smith's assessment. Members have been 
pressuring federal authorities to cap the charges on prison phone calls 
and to eliminate the kickbacks. The Federal Communications Commission is 
presently considering action 
to curb the profits earned by Securus and others involved in carceral 
telecommunications services.

In recent years, Securus has been branching out into other revenue pools 
in the prison-industrial-complex. One new area of operations has been 
video visiting. Typical video visitation contracts charge loved ones a 
dollar a minute to have what is essentially a Skype session with a 
person inside a jail. Moreover, many Securus video contracts mandate 
that the jails ban face-to-face visits to generate more money for the 
video system. However, its plans to impose a system to eliminate 
face-to-face visits in Dallas County, Texas, earlier this year were 
blocked through a national mobilization 
lead by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice.

More recently, Securus bought up controlling interest in STOP, a major 
provider of electronic monitoring services in the United States, another 
future income stream. User fees for being monitored currently run 
anywhere from $5 to $40 a day.

*Number 5: Bob Barker: "Honoring God in All We Do"*

While a host of suppliers have found prisons and jails to be a unique 
niche, perhaps none has adapted to the new marketplace as masterfully as 
Bob Barker Industries. Founded in the 1970s and now based in 
Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, Bob Barker (no connection to the former 
TV game show host) produces a wide range of goods for prisoners and 
prison staff.

The firm bills itself as a "worldwide leader in delivering innovative 
products and services to correctional and rehabilitation customers." The 
company vision: "Transforming criminal justice while honoring God in all 
we do," captures the divine inspiration behind their profit-making.

Barker's transformation program includes a variety of cheaply made goods 
for the incarcerated: jumpsuits, sandals, T-shirts, board games, and 
black-and-white-striped canvas shoes. They also sell steel stools and 
benches for day rooms and yards.

In 1999, they opened their "officers-only" line and began to offer 
corrections staff a range of uniforms plus security items like 
handcuffs, and leg shackles. In more recent years, they have diversified 
into body armor, eyeglasses featuring imbedded digital cameras and riot 

One of their points of pride is innovation. A 1996 trademark application 
<http://www.trademarkia.com/correctional-classics-75067014.html> landed 
them the brand "Correctional Classics." Since that time these classics 
have taken a number of forms. In response to overcrowding, they designed 
a three-tier bunk, which many facilities have used to house people in 
gyms and day rooms and other places which were never designed as living 
space. Perhaps their most heavily marketed product is the van cell, 
which allows officers to lock a person inside a cell while they are 
being transported from one destination to another.

However, likely their most famous catalog item is the most simple: the 
throwback, striped prison uniform. With the revival of such stigmatizing 
clothing in the last decade, Bob Barker has been at the forefront, with 
an edition the firm markets as the "convict classic."

While production has sapped most of the firm's energy over the past four 
decades, about two years ago, Bob Barker Industries underwent a process 
of reflection and added a vice president of social responsibility, 
tasked with monitoring and improving the company's impact.

Since that time, some changes have taken place, including the 
installation of solar panels at company headquarters as an energy-saving 
measure. However, perhaps their most daring venture has been the 
initiative sparked by Bob Barker, Jr. (son of the company founder) to 
address recidivism. Based on the newfound company revelation that 
"incarcerated individuals have value in the eyes of God," the newly 
minted Bob Barker Foundation has attempted to support a number of 
rehabilitation initiatives.

In fact, Bob Barker, Jr., in an interview 
<http://www.bobbarkernewsroom.com/social-responsibility/> with a North 
Carolina TV show, said that he "would die a very happy man" if the 
company could be so successful in combatting recidivism that they would 
go out of business. Though the company's finances are not public, they 
earn an estimated $100 million a year 
in revenue. And despite Bob Barker's vows of self-sacrifice and devotion 
to ending recidivism, they are not likely to close up shop any time soon.

    James Kilgore <http://truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/49334>

James Kilgore is a research scholar at the University of Illinois' 
Center for African Studies and an activist with the Champaign-Urbana 
Citizens for Peace and Justice in Illinois. He is the author of three 
novels, all of which were drafted during his six and a half years of 
incarceration. His forthcoming book, to be published by the New Press in 
2015, is titled /Understanding and Ending Mass Incarceration: A Primer/.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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