“CCA has been a great partner with us for nearly a decade now. Coffee Correctional Facility and Wheeler Correctional Facility certainly meet the standards of the Georgia Department of Corrections. I particularly appreciate CCA maintaining exemplary accreditation status with both the American Correctional Association and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare. I look forward to a continued long relationship with them.”
- Former Commissioner James E. Donald, Georgia Department of Corrections
Frequently Asked Questions and Real Answers about Correctional Partnerships
What is a partnership prison? Is this a new concept?
For more than 30 years, CCA has designed, built, operated and managed prisons, jails and detention facilities on behalf of our government partners. We ensure safety and security and provide effective rehabilitation programs for inmates, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Partnership prisons work with federal, state and local correctional agencies to combine the oversight and accountability of government with the innovative efficiency and cost effectiveness of business.
Partnership prisons and government-run prisons meet the same public need by housing inmates in a safe environment, while safeguarding the surrounding communities with secure facilities. Both are devoted to preserving humane treatment for inmates, but partnership prisons are able to provide the highest-quality, modern facilities at the best prices to government partners and taxpayers. They accomplish this through a commitment to innovation, consistent professional training and dynamic rehabilitation opportunities that meets and oftentimes exceeds that of government-run prisons.
Why use partnership prisons?
With municipal, state and federal budgets stretched to the breaking point, partnership prisons provide the “best of both worlds” – the oversight and accountability from government with the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the marketplace. Even during good economic times, governments have consistently turned to CCA to design, build and manage prisons, jails and detention centers. Correctional partnerships provide federal, state and local governments with the flexibility and savings that taxpayers deserve and expect. CCA partnership prisons save taxpayers precious tax dollars, allowing government to spend needed funds in other areas. No matter what the local, state or national economic climate looks like, saving money and making the most of available resources is always a public priority.
Creating partnerships with business gives governments the opportunity to invest more taxpayer dollars in critical priorities like schools, hospitals and parks. It is an innovative, common-sense approach: business and government working together to ensure taxpayers get the most out of every tax dollar, while providing fair, humane treatment for America’s prison population.
Partnership prisons also offer an immediate “relief valve” to the number one problem facing prisons today – overcrowding. Overcrowding impairs the safety and security of hundreds of prisons across the United States – and that puts our families and communities at greater risk. Partnership prisons allow prisoners to be housed in safer conditions immediately, often with only a 30-day notice of need.
Why is prison overcrowding such a major concern?
When most of us think about prison safety, we think about the height of the walls, the strength of the locks and the expertise of the correctional staff. Those are important factors. But one of the most dangerous factors that can seriously threaten the security of a prison is overcrowding. No prison should have so many inmates that the staff become overworked, distracted and stressed. No prison should have the conditions that come with overcrowding—too many inmates in each cell, too few resources, too little space for classes or recreational activities. Overcrowding creates an environment that makes inmates restless and disgruntled.
There is no question that overcrowded prisons are more dangerous, not only for prison staff and inmates, but also for the community. Unfortunately, nearly every state in the nation has issues with dangerous prison overcrowding – some prisons literally don’t have room for one more inmate. With prison populations rising and state budgets dropping, the problem is growing more serious. Many states face the alarming choice of releasing prisoners before completing their sentences or potentially depriving them of their constitutional protections. One thing is clear: the safety of our communities must never be compromised because of budget shortfalls – and neither should the rights of inmates be violated.
How do partnership prisons ease overcrowding?
Having government build more prisons to relieve overcrowding is expensive and is not an immediate solution to an urgent problem. It’s a process that can take government years to complete. But CCA is ready to assist right now. For example, when one state had a sudden need for more capacity, CCA was fully prepared. We immediately increased capacity at a CCA facility for more than 1,400 inmates. This saved the state system from costly federal fines and gave them time to develop their own long-term corrections plan. Just as critically, it potentially defused a dangerous situation for prisoners.
CCA stands ready to quickly provide proven and effective solutions. Whether government needs immediate, short-term or long-term space, CCA can meet those needs at our up-to-date facilities around the country. We are prepared to securely transfer inmates, while meticulously observing the standards and accountability of our government partners. CCA provides a “relief valve” to prison overcrowding. For governments, it can take three to six years to build a new prison – once the funding is secured. Because of our expertise and innovation, we can build a state-of-the-art prison in about 12-18 months, using our own business dollars, without a dime of taxpayer money. And not only is the construction time shorter – the costs are lower. In fact, CCA typically cuts construction time by 40 percent, with cost savings of up to 25 percent. This means many tens of millions dollars in savings that are passed along to the government and, by extension, to taxpayers.
We work with governments to arrive at the smartest, safest solutions to cut down on overcrowding. If a state has an immediate need to place inmates, CCA can work to securely transfer inmates to another jurisdiction or even another state. If a state is anticipating a greater need for prison space, but doesn’t have the funds to build a new prison, CCA can partner with them to build a new facility—and we can do it much faster than the government ever could.
Explain how public-private partnerships work in corrections.
For years, governments at all levels have turned to businesses and companies to provide services that were once exclusively delivered by the public sector. Public-private partnerships are now used in air traffic control, education, toll road operations and many other areas. And they’ve also been used for more than 30 years – since CCA’s inception – to design, build and operate correctional facilities.
Just as government undergoes specific processes when partnering with businesses for services in other industries, they also follow a series of formal steps when considering correctional partnership with CCA. The company’s partnership relations professionals work collaboratively with government agencies to assess their current and future needs. At every juncture, they work closely with heads of departments of corrections, legislative bodies, procurement officers, county boards and oversight committees.
Systems interested in correctional partnership with CCA may begin the process in several ways. They may issue a Request for Information (RFI), through which information is collected for general comparative purposes, or a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), through which CCA describes its expertise and ability to meet stated minimum qualifications and project requirements. Some agencies formally submit a Request for Proposal (RFP), which provides detailed information on project specifics, such as the number of inmates to be housed, classifications, duration of contract and the level of programming required. RFPs may contain hundreds of pages of detailed government requirements, including architectural renderings and environmental surveys.
Systems partner with CCA on a long-term and short-term basis. And they can work with CCA in a variety of flexible, cost effective ways that make the most of the public’s tax dollars, including to:
Design, finance, build, manage and operate a new CCA-owned correctional facility for long-term use.
Manage and operate an existing government-owned prison, jail or detention facility.
Expand an existing CCA correctional facility to safely and securely accommodate more inmates as an answer to overcrowding and growing inmate populations.
Transition inmates to a newer, more modern CCA correctional facility, often located just an hour away from many major cities.
Manage inmates in an out-of-state placement at a CCA correctional facility, especially to resolve overcrowding and serve as a relief valve while states take time to develop a long-term, strategic corrections plan.
Provide short-term or emergency housing at a CCA correctional facility during emergencies like natural disasters or when faced with shorter-term contingencies, such as the construction of new public facilities.
CCA facilities are staffed by correctional professionals who are employees of the company. All CCA facilities also have an on site contract monitor, who works for the partnering agency and helps to ensure consistent oversight and compliance.
How can people tell the difference between a partnership prison and a publicly operated one?
To the untrained eye, partnership prisons look like public prisons. Like government prisons, they are securely built and staffed by highly trained professionals. And like government prisons, they are governed by strict rules regulating the fair and humane treatment of inmates.
Partnership prisons, however, are able to deliver the same effectiveness and quality of service to taxpayers much more cost effectively by using design innovations, training, services and rehabilitation treatment offerings that often far exceed those of government-run prisons.
Additionally, CCA facilities are newer, cleaner, stronger and more secure. While some correctional agencies are still using government prisons that were built from the early 1800s to the turn of the 20th century, CCA’s facilities are newly designed and built, and kept up to date with the latest security technologies and innovations. To succeed, we have to be even better, more advanced and more cost effective than government prisons. It’s a difference the prison staff experiences through increased training and safety measures. It’s a difference the inmates experience in the quality of rehabilitation programs. It’s a difference when hardworking taxpayers see more funds being spent on roads and schools, and they know tax dollars are being used more wisely and more efficiently.
Do partnership prisons make their own rules or follow established ones? How are standards met and measured?
CCA has a proven record of going above and beyond the standards of government-run prisons, jails and detention facilities. Our commitment to security is why we meet and oftentimes exceed official government standards in each of our prisons, jails and detention centers. Most people agree that businesses need regulation and oversight to ensure they operate properly. Through public-private partnership with the government, CCA works with partners to establish rules, guidelines and regulations. We invite accountability. In fact, we demand it.
The standards of partnership prisons are met and measured with precision. CCA upholds federal, state, city and county guidelines. We also enforce our own strict code of operational standards and oversight provisions. We also observe institutional policies, industry best practices and accreditation standards set by the American Correctional Association (ACA), which represents the highest correctional standards in America today. That means every CCA facility operates under nearly 500 rigorous ACA standards – every hour of every day.
CCA has also established more than 150 stringent operating standards of our own. Whether it’s security, food service, sanitation, maintenance, health services, education, administration or even mail handling, CCA rigorously sets the highest standards in every area.
But that’s not all. We conduct more than 15 internal audits of each and every facility, including many unannounced audits. And we always welcome external audits as well, from our government partners and others. Our government partners also audit our facilities, ensuring there is more accountability at partnership prisons than at typical facilities.
We don’t merely mimic the policies of government-run prisons. We can and must do better. And we prove so each day.
Are partnership prisons accountable to the public?
Americans deserve and demand accountability from the people responsible for keeping them safe. You have the right to know that prisons are secure and that treatment of inmates is humane. You have the right to hold prisons to a high standard. And you have the right to expect that if your government turns to correctional partnerships, we can deliver equal or better facilities for a lower price – and for 30 years, that is exactly what we have done.
The standards for operating a corrections facility are high because the stakes are high. If a facility doesn’t meet high standards, then staff, inmates and, most importantly, our communities are less safe. That is not a risk CCA is willing to take.
Because the stakes are so high, at CCA, we expect to be held to a higher standard. Every prison operates under extensive laws and guidelines to ensure public safety. Our own guidelines are often stricter than those of the government. That’s why we welcome accountability, responsibility and oversight — both from outside and from within.
Are partnership prisons safe?
Nothing is more important than the safety and security of America’s families and communities. That’s why safety and security are at the core of CCA’s mission. At CCA, we believe in crisis prevention, not just crisis reaction, and our track record speaks for itself. For example, CCA’s escape rate for the past three years is many times lower than the escape rate in the most recent three years of data of government-run prisons. That’s a record you can only achieve through a relentless commitment to security and public safety.
Every corrections system is bound to experience a crisis from time to time. The question is not whether a prison will face an incident — it’s how incidents will be handled when they arise.
At CCA, one of our core beliefs is to be proactive, not reactive. For 30 years, we have been taking quick, effective action when needed. Our staff — from correctional officers to clerical assistants — consistently undergoes training in topics like emergency preparedness, incident management and proper use of force. We provide this training so that every single staff member on site is fully prepared to respond to any situation that arises. Our employees’ training always meets or exceeds the level of training of government employees. Sometimes we even train side by side with our government partners. But it’s not only our professionalism that keeps people safe. CCA’s state-of-the-art technology and cutting edge engineering help keep our correctional centers institutionally safe.
Our safety record has been tried and tested for decades across 19 states and more than 60 correctional facilities. That’s how we know that when a crisis arises, we are fully prepared to resolve it in a way that keeps our communities safe.
Do partnership prisons prioritize rehabilitation?
We know that running a prison or correctional facility is not just about the thickness of the walls or the size of the budget. The inmates are men and women who have made bad choices that landed them in prison. They still deserve to be treated fairly and humanely. Most of them will one day be released and return to society, and they must be prepared to lead a productive, crime-free life.
Treating inmates humanely isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also the safe thing to do. Research shows that Inmates who don’t have access to education, counseling, training and drug rehabilitation programs will continue to have the same problems that led them to prison in the first place — and that puts our communities at greater risk when their sentences end. Inmates who are simply locked up and left to their own devices are much more likely to offend again.
While each inmate is ultimately responsible for his or her own choices, at CCA we believe we have a responsibility to help them get back on the right path. It means making sure they are given the training and education that will allow them to make better choices when they leave. That’s why CCA partnership facilities offer high-quality substance abuse treatment, academic education, vocational training and, for interested inmates, faith-based programs that address the problems that lead them to prison. It’s why we make sure inmates have access to our staff of teachers, counselors and trainers. It’s why we have designed a variety of programs to help inmates improve in every area —educationally, vocationally, psychologically, and spiritually.
Government-run prisons do their part. And so do partnership prisons. CCA goes above and beyond government-run prisons because more is expected from us – and we expect more from our inmates so that they will have a better outcome when they leave our institutions.
In the end, we can’t force an inmate to make the right choices when they return to society. But we do give them the positive influences they need to see the right choices and the skills they need to get back on the right path. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.
How do partnership prisons lesson the blow of tight economic times?
Right now, states are struggling financially. When federal, state and county governments partner with CCA, they can reduce corrections costs that free up more funds for schools, libraries, roads and hospitals. They can spend fewer tax dollars on building, maintaining and running prisons, and instead invest more funds in directly in our communities.
CCA has the experience and ability to provide absolute safety at the lowest cost to taxpayers. Thanks to decades of expertise in designing and building facilities, CCA typically cuts construction time by 40 percent, with cost savings of up to 25 percent. That means states can focus their resources where they’re needed most—safer roads, healthier communities and better education.
For more on how partnership prisons especially prove their value to government during economic slowdowns, read “Weathering the Economic Downturn in Corrections,” available through the CCA Research Institute online.
How do partnership prisons contain costs?
CCA saves taxpayer dollars in the same way families save money when they shop at retail warehouse clubs or major discount chains. At those stores, you get a better deal because you are buying more at a time. That same principle is one way that CCA saves taxpayers money. With the size of our national correctional system, we are able to buy more at better prices.
For example, when a small state prison system negotiates with a medical provider for inmates’ prescription drugs, they are only negotiating for a small number of inmates. But with CCA, we are negotiating for more than 70,000 inmates. Because of that, we’re able to get a better rate – time and time again.
And that’s one reason our cost to house, clothe, feed, educate and provide medical care to each inmate each day is typically lower than the average government prison cost. CCA passes those savings on to our government partners. It means fewer tax dollars spent on prisons, leaving more money for other priorities and for the taxpayers themselves.
Also, we build state-of-the-art correctional facilities that maximize technology and ensure the most efficient staffing possible. We offer competitive wages based on the local market salaries and great benefits, like a 401 (k) retirement savings plan, medical coverage and disability insurance. We employ smart, dedicated people, who find better ways to operate. Because we are a business, we can move very quickly to implement changes and evaluate successes. Just like businesses that make computers are constantly releasing upgraded models at lower costs, so, too, can our company continue to upgrade the quality of our correctional facilities system-wide.
How are partnership prisons innovative?
America is the land of innovation. It’s what sets us apart. The concept of partnership prisons was an innovative idea when CCA developed it three decades ago—and it’s that same spirit of innovation that drives us today. You can see it in the way we design and build our correctional centers, using new, proprietary technologies to strengthen security. You can see it in the way we run our operations, providing the best training and support to our staff. And you can see it in the resourceful way we work with governments and suppliers to save taxpayers money. That’s why our prisons cost 10 to 15 percent less than government-run prisons, but follow the same – or even more rigorous – standards.
As a business, we have the flexibility to research new methods, test new strategies and pilot new programs. Through CCA’s partnership prisons, the government can benefit from our commitment to stay on the cutting edge.
Innovation. It’s what distinguished CCA early on and what has transformed us into the nation’s fifth-largest corrections system. It’s why Forbes magazine has repeatedly named us one of the best-managed companies in the United States. And it’s what will continue pushing us to develop the best possible solutions to keep communities safe and save precious tax dollars.
Do partnership prisons benefit the local economy?
Safety is the most important benefit a correctional facility provides to a community. But it’s not the only benefit. When a correctional partner like CCA enters a community, it gives that community an economic boost, creating new opportunities for prosperity.
A new facility typically provides hundreds of permanent career opportunities in a fairly recession-resistant industry. By joining CCA, these individuals can build lifelong careers for themselves at a company that has a proven record of stability and success. CCA typically hires 70 to 80 percent of its facility staff locally. In fact, we strive to hire as many staff from the community as possible. The exceptions to this – because we always put safety and security first and ensure the highest operational standards – are the critical top management positions (warden, assistant warden and potentially other departmental supervisors). These are usually filled by those who are experienced in corrections and with CCA. As a national company, CCA promotes career development for our 17,500 employees, and the opportunity to work in a new CCA facility is always attractive to career-minded CCA professionals.
Building a new prototypical CCA facility brings about 300 immediate construction-related jobs to the local area. CCA’s general contractors strive to hire as many qualified sub-contractors as possible from the local area, often comprised of between 50-70 percent local sub-contractors. Additionally, CCA and our contractors ensure that all materials that can be purchased in the community are, in fact, locally purchased. And, of course, CCA pays applicable sales taxes on these materials.
Unlike government prisons, a CCA facility pays significant amount of property taxes to the local community. In addition, the new employees and stimulate local spending and buying in the community where the facilities are built.
What do independent observers say about partnership prisons?
CCA has a strong record of support from outside independent sources, from trusted independent organizations to respected publications. Forbes Magazine has called us one of America’s best-managed companies. We have been named one of the country’s top military-friendly employers by G.I. Jobs magazine. Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine has considered us one of the nation’s best corporate citizens. We don’t just view this praise as affirmation of a job well done. We believe it is more proof that we are meeting the needs of the people to whom we’re accountable — and that we’re doing it efficiently, effectively, economically, skillfully and professionally.
Additionally, research foundations, academicians and policy institutes have produced studies and findings that support the safety, cost effectiveness and quality of partnership prisons. You can find out more on our online CCA Research Institute at http://www.ccaresearchinstitute.com/.