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  • mcprison mcprison Nov 12, 2001 12:20 AM Flag

    expanding in tough times, 1

    The Palm Beach Post

    November 2, 2001 Friday FINAL EDITION

    SECTION: BUSINESS, Pg. 1D

    LENGTH: 712 words

    HEADLINE: ADJUSTING TO END OF PRISON BOOM WACKENHUT CORRECTIONS TURNS TO FEDERAL
    AND NON-PRISON FACILITIES

    BYLINE: Stephen Pounds, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    DATELINE: PALM BEACH GARDENS

    BODY:

    Private prison firms operated on a single theme through most of the 1990s:
    Build them and they'll be filled.

    Not anymore.

    In 1994, 40 states were under court orders to ease prison overcrowding. The
    year before, 30,000 violent criminals had to be released without spending a day
    behind bars. States turned to private companies such as Palm Beach Gardens-based
    Wackenhut Corrections Corp. to solve the crisis. They, in turn, undertook a
    six-year prison building spree.

    But now, as a result of lower crime rates stemming from the economic boom of
    the 1990s, some states are facing a surplus of prison beds. Wackenhut has had to
    rejigger its business strategy to cope.

    It has turned more to the federal government than to the states for new
    business and has diversified into managing other types of facilities.

    "That's our primary focus domestically, until the state market develops,
    which we think it will in the next year-and-a-half," said George Zoley,
    Wackenhut Corrections' chief executive officer.

    In the second half of 2000, state prison populations fell by 6,200 inmates -
    the first drop since 1972 - compared with a rise of 6 percent from 1990 to
    midyear 2000, a U.S. Department of Justice report showed.

    Thirteen states reported a decline in the prison population for 2000, and
    six others showed an increase of 1 percent or less. Making matters worse for
    prison companies such as Wackenhut, states such as Florida are reporting a
    surplus of beds. At the end of 2000, Florida had filled only 81 percent of its
    prison beds.

    Even so, the bed surplus hasn't hurt Wackenhut in Florida, where the state's
    five privately run prisons - two of which Wackenhut runs - are at 95 percent of
    capacity or better. Gov. Jeb Bush wants to save money by filling privately
    managed prisons.

    The state "has been specifically pumping inmates into our facilities because
    of the budget crunch," said Mark Hodges, director of the Florida Correctional
    Privatization Commission, that state agency that oversees the state's private
    prisons.

 
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