Private Prison CEO Unconcerned About Hillary Clinton’s Pledge to End His Industry

Corrections Corporation of America CEO Damon Hininger said that with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, his firm will be "just fine."

Staff photo by Doug StricklandThe cells of a ward are seen Tuesday, June 30, 2015, at Silverdale Correctional Facility in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Staff photo by Doug Strickland The cells of a ward are seen Tuesday, June 30, 2015, at Silverdale Correctional Facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. Photo: Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The chief executive of the largest private prison company in America reassured investors earlier this month that with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, his firm will be “just fine.” Damon Hininger, the chief executive of Corrections Corporation of America, was speaking at the REITWeek investor forum.

Private prisons have received a great deal of criticism this election cycle, first with Bernie Sanders campaigning to end for-profit incarceration, followed by Clinton taking up a similar pledge.

After The Intercept revealed that the Clinton campaign had received campaign donations from private prison lobbyists, a number of activist groups confronted Clinton, leading her to announce that she would no longer accept the money and later declaring that “we should end private prisons and private detention centers.”

But Corrections Corporation is apparently not concerned. Asked about prospects under Trump or Clinton, Hininger argued that his company has prospered through political turnover by taking advantage of the government’s quest for lower costs.

“I would say that being around 30 years and being in operation in many, many states, and also doing work with the federal government going back to the 1980s, where you had Clinton White House, you had a Bush White House, you had Obama White House, we’ve done very, very well,” Hininger said.

“If we continue to do a good job on the quality, and with that, we can demonstrate savings both on capital voids, but also cost savings in our services, then I think we’ll be just fine,” he said.

“I think about the next president, whoever that is, if it’s Hillary Clinton or if it’s Donald Trump, there’s going to be so many things that he or she are going to have to deal with next year or next administration, both nationally and internationally, that I think having a view on our business, our industry is going to be really, really low on the priority list,” Hininger said.

Listen to his June 8 comments below:

Corrections Corporation was founded in 1983 by the former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, who leveraged his political ties to win a number of government contracts to operate prison and immigrant detention facilities. The company has used its political influence to shape its rapid growth. Corrections Corporation used a third party advocacy group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to lobby for “three strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws that fueled the growth of prison populations, as well as for privatization laws that handed control of federal and state prison facilities to private operators. In recent years, the company’s lobbyists played a role in promoting state laws that encourage local police to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The firm, which brought in $1.7 billion in revenue for the last fiscal year, has succeeded financially through aggressive cost-cutting measures. But critics say Corrections Corporation has endangered both prison guards and inmates by under staffing and failing to train employees, leading to multiple incidents of rape and killings at CCA-run prisons.

Corrections Corporation is receiving renewed attention this week as Mother Jones publishes a 35,000-word investigation of a CCA-operated prison in Louisiana. Reporter Shane Bauer spent four months working as a prison guard at the facility, documenting systematic neglect of medical care and rampant violence. Robert Scott, an inmate in the prison, lost fingers and limbs to gangrene after the prison largely ignored his requests for serious treatment. Bauer, who worked at $9 an hour with little formal training, found that the company failed to report multiple stabbings to the state government, despite laws that require documentation of such incidents.

Top photo: The cells of a CCA prison at Silverdale Correctional Facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., on June 30, 2015.

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