Tennessee’s Private Prisons Offer Latest Example of For-Profit Misery and Death

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Private, for-profit prisons in Tennessee have double the number of homicides as state-run facilities, while having less than half the number of prisoners.

CoreCivic, the for-profit corporation formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), runs four medium-security Tennessee prisons with thirty percent of the incarcerated population, while the Tennessee Department of Corrections runs ten, including all maximum-security facilities that house seventy percent of the state’s convicts, according to a study by Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) and No Exceptions Prison Collective.

“The average homicide rate in TDOC prisons was 0.67 per 10,000 prisoners while the average rate in CoreCivic facilities was 3.13 per 10,000 prisoners – or 4.64 times higher,” Prison Legal News reported, citing the study.

In 2018, CoreCivic reported $1.83 billion in revenue. Almost half of CoreCivic’s revenue is derived from federal contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Marshals and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). In March 2019, ICE contracts accounted for 27 percent of CoreCivic’s total revenue, an increase from 13 percent in 2014.

The HRDC and No Exceptions Prison Collective report was published by several online news outlets, including Nashville Scene, News Channel 9, Columbia Daily and others.

CoreCivic which owns or manages 129 prisons and immigration detention centers across the country, responded that the report is “politically biased,” that TDOC has more females, and that TDOC “holds a substantial portion of minimum-security prisoners.”

In defense of their story, Prison Legal News said the company’s claim was bogus. “The only acceptable solution to the human rights disaster that CoreCivic has been allowed to create is to shut this corporation down. No one should profit from torture,” said Jeannie Alexander, director of the No Exceptions Prison Collective, who is an attorney and a former TDOC chaplain.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Regardless of whether Prison Legal News’ report on CoreCivic’s Tennessee facilities is biased, the death toll at CoreCivic’s federal immigrant-detention facilities have been widely documented by, among others, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE Detainee Passes away at Georgia Hospital; the Daily Beast, (Fourth Migrant in Two Years Dies after Stay in Private Immigration Detention Center); the Arizona Republic/AZCentral (Eloy Detention Center: Why So Many Suicides); and PBS (Private Prison Company Sued in Death of One-year-old Migrant Child).]


Lauren von Bernuth, “Private Prison Homicide Rates in Tennessee Vastly Higher Than State-Run Facilities,” Citizen Truth, August 24, 2019, https://citizentruth.org/private-prisons-in-tennessee-report-homicide-rates-vastly-higher-than-state-run-facilities/.

“CoreCivic Prisons in Tennessee Have Twice as Many Murders, Four Times the Homicide Rate as State-Run Facilities,” Prison Legal News, July 16, 2019, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2019/jul/16/corecivic-prisons-tennessee-have-twice-many-murders-four-times-homicide-rate-state-run-facilities/ .

Student Researcher: Radwa Elmanzalawy (City College of San Francisco)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)