for more inmates. Steven Owen, a spokesman for CCA, says his company is focused on providing good service to Mississippi, and "the rest of it will take care of itself."
As of yesterday, 2,145 prison beds remained empty across the state, a number Mr. Johnson says isn't likely to fall anytime soon. Net admissions of 554 inmates through Aug. 31 are trailing last year's comparable figure by 694 inmates. In March, the legislature adjusted the state's sentencing law to make first-time nonviolent convicts eligible for parole.
And in an aftershock of the 1990s prison-building explosion, an 11th county-operated regional prison is scheduled to open next spring, with space for 250 state prisoners. According to a contract he signed before so many beds became empty, Mr. Johnson must find 200 inmates for that prison too.
Mississippi built 15 prisons in seven years, creating too many cells and fierce competition for inmates among prison operators. In the hunt for more convicts were private prison companies Wackenhut Corrections Corp. and Corrections Corp. of America, as well as "regional" prisons, such as the one in Bolivar County.
Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Headquarters: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. CEO and Vice-Chairman: George C. Zoley 40,000 beds in 57 facilities 2000 revenue: $535.6 million 2000 net income: $17.0 million
Corrections Corp. of America Headquarters: Nashville, Tenn. CEO and President: John D. Ferguson 61,300 beds in 64 facilities 2000 revenue: $310.3 million 2000 net loss: $730.8 million
The explosion of prison construction during the past decade has left 27 states with at least 1% excess capacity in their prison systems according to the Justice Department. Some states, though, are still overcrowded. Figures are as of end of 2000.