Private prison stocks have begun to soar in the USA and are poised to climb even higher after Donald Trump entered the White House.
The shares of the GEO Group have climbed more than 60%, and shares of CoreCivic have surged over 95%. The cause of the rise is two-fold, said Michael Kodesch, analyst at research firm Canaccord: Trump won, and Hillary Clinton lost.
“It’s not necessarily all about what Trump’s policies are but also about what Clinton’s policies would have been,” he told The Independent.
Clinton had called for an end to private prisons and the closure of family detention and private immigration detention centers. A single tweet from her had caused shares of Geo and CoreCivic to plunge in September.
The Obama administration had taken a critical stance on private prisons. Shares plummeted in August when the Department of Justice issued a memo to the Bureau of Prisons announcing plans to phase out their use.
“Once Trump was elected, all of that went away,” Kodesh said.
That Trump was likely to be more private prison-friendly was evident when he supported such companies in an interview with MSNBC in March, and his policies — specifically those related to immigration — bode well for the industry.
At an October campaign speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Trump proposed a two-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for illegal immigrants reentering the U.S. after deportation and a mandatory five-year minimum for illegal criminal immigrants reentering.
About two-thirds of immigrant detainees are kept in private facilities (as opposed to about 15% of federal inmates). According to data from the Austin, Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership, the private prison industry is expected to acquire 80% of any future immigrant detention beds.
In the USA, the modern private prison business first emerged in 1984 when the Corrections Corporation of America was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Hamilton County.
The US Department of Justice statistics show that, as of 2013, there were 133,000 state and federal prisoners housed in privately owned prisons in the US, constituting 8.4% of the overall U.S. prison population.
Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Securities), Management and Training Corporation, and Community Education Centres.
In the past two decades CCA has seen its profits increase by more than 500 percent. The prison industry as a whole took in over $5 billion in revenue in 2011.
Wall Street banks took notice of this influx of cash, and are now some of the prison industry’s biggest investors. Wells Fargo has around 100 million invested in GEO Group and 6 million in CCA. Other major investors include Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, General Electric and The Vanguard Group. CCA’s share price went from a dollar in 2000 to $34.34 in 2013.
In June 2013, students at Columbia University discovered that the institution owned $8 million worth of CCA stock. Less than a year later the student group Columbia Prison Divest was formed and delivered a letter to the president of the University demanding total divestment from CCA and full disclosure of future investments. By June 2015, the board of trustees at Columbia University voted to divest from the private prison industry.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Justice asserts that privately operated federal facilities are less safe, less secure and more punitive than other federal prisons.