Today It Locks Up Immigrants. But CoreCivic’s Roots Lie in the Brutal Past of America’s Prisons.


In 2015, I spent four months working undercover as a guard at a medium-security Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) with the aim of reporting on the conditions inside a private prison for Mother Jones. Shortly after I began, I was shown a short promotional video in which two of the company’s founders tell the origin story of their business. In it, T. Don Hutto and Thomas Beasley recount how in 1983 they won “the first contract ever to design, build, finance, and operate a secure correc­tional facility in the world.” Hutto looks frail, with a shiny white head and oversize glasses, but he speaks with enthusiasm, recalling the story of his company’s first immigration detention contract like he’s giving a blow-by-blow account of a winning high school touchdown. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the predecessor of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), gave Hutto and Beasley just 90 days to get the job done. From that deal, CCA would grow into a $1.8 billioncompany that helped build the immigration detention system that President Donald Trump now plans to expand.

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