When the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced it would phase out its use of private prisons on Aug. 18, the stock price of the nation’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), fell by 35 percent in a single day. But the market may have overreacted to the announcement. BOP contracts actually make up a fairly small part of CCA’s business.
All of CCA’s revenues come from government contracts, but the federal government delivers only about half of the company’s revenue (agreements with individual states provide the rest). The BOP accounts for an even smaller percentage of the company’s business: about 7 percent, or $131 million, according to CEO Damon Hininger.
“That compares to about $245 million we had in revenue [from the BOP] in 2010,” Hininger said during an investor update call the day after the BOP’s announcement. “So our exposure has dramatically diminished over the last six years with the Bureau of Prisons.”
This reduction in exposure reflects a decrease in the federal prison population. Since 2013, the federal prison population has shrunk from 219,298 inmates to 192,583.
So while a 7 percent reduction in revenue is certainly not good, it’s hardly a life sentence.
However, CCA is not out of the woods yet. While BOP business has shrunk, the company’s revenue from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has grown. Last year, the company’s ICE business doubled from 12 to 24 percent of total revenue, thanks to a four-year, billion-dollar contract to operate the South Texas Family Residential Center.
But now the ICE might follow in the footsteps of the BOP. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Aug. 29 that he is directing the ICE to review its contracts with private prison operators.
The ICE’s review should be completed in November. If the ICE follows the BOP’s lead and begins phasing out private prisons, CCA could be in real trouble.