Worth Rises: Mapping For-Profit Prison Contractors

I volunteer my time at Worth Rises, a non-profit advocacy organization looking to end the exploitation in the prison industrial complex. In recent years, there has been a rise in governments using private contractors to house prisoners. However, that’s not the full picture. There are thousands of contractors that service, and profit off of, this industry, where sectors such as healthcare, construction, commissary, and phone services often go unnoticed.

Graduating from the Urban Justice Center’s “advocacy incubator”, Worth Rises looks to create transparency in this space. To that end, they publish a dataset of for-profit prison contractors to show the pervasive nature of the problem. There are over 3,900 companies that in some shape or form service this industry, and this map highlights where these companies are headquartered along with a sector breakdown.

You can check out their report with an interactive version here.

The above map looks at raw counts of companies, so it’s also informative to adjust the numbers for population:

State Population (2018 estimate) For-Profit Prison Contractors Contractors / 100,000 people
District of Columbia 702,455 15 2.14
Virginia 8,517,685 171 2.01
North Dakota 760,077 15 1.97
Oklahoma 3,943,079 76 1.93
Ohio 11,689,442 184 1.57
New York 19,542,209 303 1.55
Florida 21,299,325 308 1.45
Texas 28,701,845 412 1.44
Massachusetts 6,902,149 88 1.27
Minnesota 5,611,179 70 1.25

DC, Virginia, and North Dakota have the most for-profit prison contractors when adjusted for population while New York, Florida, and Texas round out the top 10. It’s important to note that these stats are attributed to their headquarters location and that the data was pulled in large part from CA, TX, FL, OH and NY, so they may be over-represented. A further deep dive is warranted to figure out how/if these states create an environment more conducive to these types of businesses.



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