At A Crossroads, Nashville Prison Operator CCA Faces Investors — And Critics | Nashville Public Radio

At A Crossroads, Nashville Prison Operator CCA Faces Investors — And Critics

Nov 2, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America is attempting to transform.

The Nashville-based prison operator is trying out new business lines. It's shedding senior leaders. And it's even got a new name.

But as the company prepares to release its quarterly earnings Wednesday, it's still got plenty of critics.

The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a debate over incarceration. An exposé in Mother Jones magazine questioned conditions in CCA prisons. And authorities have considered ending their contracts with private prison operators.

"Their bottom line rests on very high levels of incarceration," says Lisa Guenther, an associate professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University who focuses on prison issues. "For years they have been having their ears to ground and figuring out, 'How can we diversify, or how can we change our business model so that we don't exclusively rely on bricks and mortar prisons for our profit?'"

CCA has been controversial since its founding a little over three decades ago. The very concept of turning prisons over to for-profit companies makes many people uneasy.

But recently, criticism of CCA has finally forced the company to consider changing its basic business model.

The company hopes to win more contracts for "reentry services" after prisoners are released. It also wants to get into businesses outside the correctional system — like managing government buildings.

To those ends, CCA's laying off 55 senior executives full-time positions at its Nashville headquarters. And last week it announced a new name: CoreCivic.

CCA did receive some good news last month, when immigration authorities extended its deal to run a large, South Texas detention center. But the company's shares are trading at less than half their prices in July. Investors — and CCA's critics — will be listening to see what the company has planned next.