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Thousands of Privately Owned Companies Are Profiting From the U.S. Prison System

A report released by the Corrections Accountability Project this week exposes over 3,100 corporations—including over 2,500 privately traded companies—that profit from the United States prison system.

The 113-page report provides troves of data outlining the thousands of companies that contribute, intentionally or unintentionally, to the Prison Industrial Complex, according to Bianca Tylek, director of the Corrections Accountability Project.

"We were trying to uncover how intentional these companies are about hiding engagement in the Prison Industrial Complex," Tylek says. Tylek points out that, besides CoreCivic and GEO Group, the two largest privately owned prison companies in America, there are many small companies that contribute to the $80 billion spent annually on U.S. prisons.

The report states that more than half of that $80 billion is used to pay the thousands of vendors that serve the U.S. prison system, including health-care providers, commissary merchants, and food suppliers.

The prison industry's economic structures act as an invisible barrier, and are rarely the focal points of criminal justice advocacy. However, data provided in the report shines a light on some of the companies that benefit from the continuation of mass incarceration—companies that are far removed from the communities that incarceration touches most.

"Because many [people in those communities] have no voice, they have no space to challenge what happens to their communities," Tylek says. "As a result, other companies get to profit off of them. What does that mean for our vision of society and justice?"