Private prison companies look to Canada as industry faces lawsuits in US

Posted on The Canadian Progressive on July 4, 2012

On June 19, 2012, Bilbo Poynter wrote for The Guardian (UK):

US states are beginning to rely less on privately run prisons, but Canada may be a land of opportunity for the two biggest firms

US private prison firms are targeting Canada for fresh opportunities as pressure builds at home on the troubled multi-billion dollar industry from human rights groups and legal actions, and as more states look to scale back their reliance on them.

Two of the biggest operators in an industry once regarded as recession-proof, Geo Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), have been lobbying various government departments in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

With a massive prison overhaul plan already underway – as well as the passage in March of Bill C-10, a suite of crime legislation that most observers agree will see more Canadians face prison time and keep those already locked up behind bars for longer – it seems the American industry’s interest in its neighbour to the north could not come at a better time.

The private industry’s lobbying of Canadian lawmakers has some Canadian prison watchers worried. “There is something unethical with having corporations seeking profits from locking people up,” wrote a group of former high-ranking Canadian justice officials to the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper in March.

Mike Murphy, marketing director for the Utah-based MTC, confirmed the company’s interest in Canada. “When the conservative government came into play we saw some headlines that they may be looking at PPP’s [private-public partnerships] and talking about doing some stuff with the private sector through their [corrections] infrastructure renewal,” he said.

“If something does happen we’ll be interested both on the design, build, finance, as well if there’s any interest in private operations, which has been kind of controversial up in Canada versus the states, where it’s pretty predominant,” added Murphy.

While the Geo Group are second in the private prison business (after Corrections Corporation of America), with revenue of over $1bn in 2011, they have consistently been the subject of critical media reports due to a long line of legal actions against them for trouble and neglect at some of their facilities.

Read full report on The Guardian