Louisiana’s Private Prisons Are Facing Deep Budget Cuts

Lockups like the one where Shane Bauer worked will have to get by on $25 per inmate per day.

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-1241062p1.html">vita pakhai</a>/Shutterstock

In the face of deep budget cuts, Louisiana’s private prisons are going to have to scrape by with a lot less. A recently enacted $29.3 million reduction in the budget of the state Department of Corrections will mean much smaller payments to private prison companies, which will see their per inmate rates shrink from nearly $32 per day to about $25, close to what sheriffs are paid to house inmates in local jails. In comparison, Louisiana spends roughly $52 per inmate per day in its state-run institutions.

The cash crunch in Louisiana’s private prisons isn’t new, as documented by Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer, who spent four months working in a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. During the time he was at Winn Correctional Center, CCA received $34 per inmate per day. But the cost per prisoner at Winn, in real dollars, had dropped nearly 20 percent between the late ’90s and 2014, according to the state budget office.

According to The Advocate, the latest cuts will result in 900 prisoners being transferred from private facilities to state-run institutions because for-profit prisons will no longer be able to handle their disciplinary and medical needs.

Louisiana Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc told state lawmakers the cuts are “dangerous,” saying they would force layoffs and make prisons “unmanageable.” LeBlanc also warned that nearly 10 percent of Louisiana inmates will receive bare-bones “lock and feed” treatment, which he predicts could lead to higher recidivism rates.

Similarly, Billy McConnell, the managing director of LaSalle Corrections, the company that took over Winn after CCA voided its contract to run the prison last year, told The Advocate that Winn will have to be run more like a jail than a prison, with little or no rehabilitative programming for inmates. He told the newspaper, “There are going to be big cuts to programming, which I hate. But we have to be able to pay our bills.”