Jun 8, 2019

The states where private prisons are thriving

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
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Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Cartogram: Chris Canipe/Axios

Since the first private prison opened in 1984 in Tennessee, for-profit incarceration has ballooned into a $5 billion industry. In 2017, 121,420 people — about 8% of the U.S. prison population — were housed in private facilities, but the share is much higher in some states.

Why it matters: Private prisons tend to hire fewer guards than state and federal prisons and often are more dangerous.

  • A spokesperson for private prison firm GEO Group told Axios the company's services comply with federal standards as well as third-party accreditors’ guidelines.
  • Still, private institutions had 28% more inmate-on-inmate assaults than their public counterparts, according to a 2016 Justice Department report.

By the numbers:

  • The 2017 prison population is slightly (4%) smaller than it was in 2015.
  • The states with the highest share of inmates in private prisons were Montana (38.1%) and Hawaii (28.5%).
  • Texas and Florida together housed 24,404 inmates in private prisons.
  • A population of zero in the above chart indicates no prisoners were held in private prisons at the end of the year in 2017. But those states could still have such facilities, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The bottom line: The private prison industry has boomed under the Trump administration. In November 2016, President Obama pushed an executive order to end the Justice Department's reliance on private facilities, but President Trump rescinded the order once he took office.

  • Since then, the stocks of the two biggest private prison companies have surged: CoreCivic is up 56% to $22.78 and GEO Group is up 46% to $23.02.

Go deeper: This story was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with recent data.

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Inside Trump's antifa tweet

President Trump at Cape Canaveral on May 30. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").

U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Protests continued across the country for the sixth day in a row on Sunday, as demonstrators called for justice in response to the deaths of George Floyd, EMT Breonna Taylor, jogger Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black Americans who have suffered at the hands of racism and police brutality.

What's happening: Protestors in D.C. broke one police barricade outside the White House on Sunday evening after reportedly demonstrating for several hours. The atmosphere was still largely peaceful as of 6pm ET.

Trump privately scolded, warned by allies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Over the past couple of days, numerous advisers both inside and outside the White House have urged the president to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worry could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically.

Behind the scenes: The biggest source of internal concern was Trump's escalatory tweet, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Some advisers said it could damage him severely with independent voters and suburban women.