CCA Buys 480 Prisoners from Puerto Rico to Fill Empty Oklahoma Facility

Posted on January 9, 2012


The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s top company at making money off of keeping people locked up, has entered into a contract to lease 480 Puerto Rican prisoners for its Oklahoma facility where prisoners will be thousands of miles away from their relatives.

CCA’s Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Ok. has nearly 1,700 beds, but only 650 of them are being used. However, “following the ramp-up of the new inmates from Puerto Rico, the population at the Cimarron facility is expected to be approximately 1,100 inmates,” CCA proudly announced on a MarketWire press release that also boasted a 0.37 % increase in its stock price.

Damon Hininger, president and CEO of CCA, said in the same press release that the move will finally give CCA the chance to use all that empty space it has in Cushing.

“We are delighted to once again include Puerto Rico as one of our government partners,” Hininger said. “We value the trust Puerto Rico has placed in us and will work closely with our partner to ensure a smooth transition. Additionally, we are pleased this contract will improve utilization at the Cimarron Correctional Facility and reduce our inventory of available capacity.”

CCA and Puerto Rico have worked together in the past – in Puerto Rico –  but they have not had a contract with each other since 2002, when CCA lost three contracts, including one that had extended to 2006, but was canceled early, according to a separate article by the Nashville Post. The article did not elaborate on why those contracts were lost and nobody at CCA I was able to contact would comment on that. But here are some pictures of what a CCA prison in Puerto Rico looked like, courtesy of a Youtube video from somebody who used to work there.

So why would Puerto Rico want to get back into business with a private prison corporation that it fired once already? Furthermore, why send prisoners all the way to Oklahoma?

According to Jesús González, the secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR), it is to save $30 – $35 per day, per prisoner, and allow them to participate in educational courses.

González added that the program is voluntary and although prisoners will be far away from family, they will be able to contact them via videophone, reported El Nuevo Dia.

However, not everyone in Puerto Rico sees the move as a beneficial cost-saver. Charlie Hernández of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, blasted the program, according to

“The contract only benefits a private company in exchange for money and to fill empty spaces that are available in its Oklahoma prison. This initiative conflicts with a basic principle of rehabilitation, which is the inmate be allowed to serve his sentence in an institution near his family,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also said politics were probably at play, since prisoners are being moved soon after the Puerto Rican government announced it took care of its prison overcrowding problem.

“Paradoxically, this determination occurs when the DCR claims to have solved the case of prison overcrowding in Puerto Rico. In other words, there is no justification for granting the contract because our facilities should have space available. Obviously, this Administration seeks no easy solutions to meet its responsibility to rehabilitate inmates and instead treats them like storage objects,” said Hernandez.

The prison-industrial complex is further illustrated by CCA’s claim that 90 new jobs will be created in the Cushing, OK. area. Cushing City Manager, Steve Spears, praised the idea of more jobs for his city.

“The more jobs you have in your community, the more money circulates in your community,” Spears said, according to Oklahoma’s News 9.

Local resident Gary said the jobs that will be created are not worth much.

“The turn-over is so bad here they can’t keep anybody here,” he said.

The contract is worth $10 million a year for CCA, according to the Nashville Post.

Despite having about a third of the amount of prisoners that the mainland USA has per capita (Puerto Rico locks up 244 for every 100,000 residents while the mainland locks up 743 for every 100,000 residents), PR has a system in place where getting locked up is not difficult to do.

The Puerto Rican police department (second largest in the U.S.) has been criticized for brutalizing citizens and being rotten with corruption.

According to the NY Times:

[A report by the Justice Department] says the 17,000-officer force routinely conducts illegal searches and seizures without warrants. It accuses the force of a pattern of attacking nonviolent protesters and journalists in a manner “designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights.”

And it says investigators “uncovered troubling evidence” that law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico appear to routinely discriminate against people of Dominican descent and “fail to adequately police sex assault and domestic violence” cases — including spousal abuse by fellow officers.

“Unfortunately,” the report found, “far too many P.R.P.D. officers have broken their oath to uphold the rule of law, as they have been responsible for acts of crime and corruption and have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the residents of Puerto Rico.”

In addition to a corrupt police force, Puerto Rico, which is a major port for illegal drug trafficking, has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. According to NORML, getting caught with any amount of marijuana is a felony and can get someone 3 years in prison for the first offense, 6 years for the second. The sale or cultivation of any amount can get someone 12 years for the first offense and 24 years for the second.

Paraphernalia can also get an offender locked up for 3 years.

Puerto Rico is in economic trouble and has been forced to cut spending dramatically in recent years with a governor, Luis Fortuño, who idolizes Ronald Reagan. That’s evidence of how strong the Gipper’s legacy is:  the man who helped bring so declared war on Latin America and a drug war on the U.S.A. while preaching love for any big business has influenced a sitting governor of a Hispanic community to believe that the way to solve the crisis of over-incarceration and over-policing is to send people to a private, for-profit prison.

Posted in: Crime, Drug War