Oct 1, 2019

Elizabeth Warren investigates for-profit prison money

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is no fan of private equity or private prisons, and Axios has learned that she wants answers from PE firms invested in prison services companies.

The big picture: Warren's goal is to determine if private equity ownership results in a lower standard of services, similar to an investigation she launched last month into PE-owned for-profit colleges.

Warren yesterday sent letters of inquiry to 5 firms. Co-sponsoring the letters were Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

  • Requested information includes revenue, profits, number of employees and number of incarcerated individuals related to the underlying investments.

None of the 5 targeted firms have a specific focus on prison services, but each has made at least 1 significant investment in the sector:

  • American Securities: GTL, one of the 2 largest providers of inmate calling and emailing services.
  • Apax Partners: Attenti, a provider of electronic monitoring products.
  • BlueMountain Capital: Corizon Health, the largest private provider of medical services to prisons, operating in 220 facilities in 17 states.
  • H.I.G. Capital: Trinity Services Group, a provider of food and commissary services to correctional facilities in 43 states. It also owns health care services provider Wellpath.
  • Platinum Equity: Securus, one of the 2 largest providers of inmate calling and emailing services.

The bottom line: Warren already has proposed legislation that would make private equity funds liable for debt obligations of their portfolio companies, including worker pension obligations. Now, she seems interested in expanding that liability to "consumers" of such portfolio companies, whether they be for-profit students or prisoners.

Go deeper: Axios' deep dive on the business of private prisons

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Massive demonstrations put police response to unrest in the spotlight

Washington State Police use tear gas to disperse a crowd in Seattle during a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The response of some officers during demonstrations against police brutality in the U.S. has been criticized for being excessive by some officials and Black Lives Matter groups and leaders.

Why it matters: The situation is tense across the U.S., with reports of protesters looting and burning buildings. While some police have responded with restraint and by monitoring the protests, others have used batons, tear gas and other chemicals and devices to disperse protesters and, in some cases, journalists.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. cities crack down on protesters

The scene near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration calling for justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Saturday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd outside the CNN Center on May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protestors.

Why it matters: The incidents show how easy it can be for the media to entangled in the stories they cover, especially during a time of civil unrest.