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Expand chart
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Obama pushed an executive order to end the Justice Department's reliance on private facilities, but President Trump rescinded the order once he took office.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.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 10 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.