Prison Finance

News Article The Intercept April 4, 2016

Prisoners in Multiple States Call for Strikes to Protest Forced Labor

Director Judy Greene comments on the growing protest in prisons across the country calling for work stoppages by those incarcerated there and an end to forced labor for pennies per hour and medical co-pays of $100, among other grievances.  The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banned slavery and involuntary servitude, "except as a punishment for crime..."  This is the basis for a legalized form of slavery through our criminal justice system, prison protesters charge.

News Article Politic365 May 30, 2013

Private Prisons Equal Big Business

Justice Strategies' Director, Judith Greene, is quoted in an article entitled Private Prisons Equal Big Business by Stacy Brown of the Washington Informer, posted May 30th, 2013 on Politics 365. The article discusses the billions of dollars in annual revenues being taken in, and the $45 million spent annually to lobby lawmakers for tougher and longer sentences, by the for profit prison industry, among other financial benefits going to these private corporations.

News Article Philadelphia Inquirer March 25, 2010

Shrinking Pa.'s Prison Population

A new report by the Pew Center on the States shows that while the national prison population declined last year for the first time in 38 years, Pennsylvania's number of inmates increased more than any other state's.

JS Publication March 3, 2010

Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States

Downsizing Prisons is a collaborative research effort between Justice Strategies and The Sentencing Project that examines four states – Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York -- that have moved against the growth trend in state prison populations of 12% since 2000. These states achieved significant declines in prison populations and offer lessons to policymakers in other states.

JS Publication January 1, 2007

Doing borrowed time: The high cost of back-door prison finance

In the face of tight budgets and growing public opposition to new prison spending, officials in many states have employed a variety of "back-door" schemes to finance new prison construction. The mechanisms vary but the consequences are the same: rapid prison expansion that takes place with little public involvement or oversight.

A review of recent prison, jail and detention expansion initiatives shows that such back-door financing mechanisms are becoming more common at the federal, state and local level. Behind this trend is a cottage industry of investment bankers, architects, building contractors and consultants who have made enormous profits by encouraging local and state governments to borrow tens and hundreds of millions of dollars to build prisons and detention centers that the public does not want and cannot afford. The U.S. prison population doubled during the 1980s and nearly doubled again in the following decade. By the end of the 1990s the nation's prisons held more than 1.3 million prisoners while the total incarcerated population - including jails and detention centers - fell just short of two million.

Prison population growth has continued since the turn of the century but at a much slower pace. Average annual growth rates fell from nearly seven percent during the 1990s to just under two percent in the past half-decade. Read more »

JS Publication June 1, 2004

The Three-Ring Bond Circus: How bond deals work

The process of putting together a bond deal is complicated and delicate. Investors choose from thousands of options when buying municipal bonds and most seek deals that involve something between little risk and no risk at all. Yet the projects financed by bonds are often massive, involving dozens of risk factors. The task of investment bankers and others who put together bond deals is to put together a package that not only eliminates or minimizes risk factors, but also minimizes the appearance of risk.

An overview of the bonding process authored by Justice Strategies analyst Kevin Pranis can be found at, a website launched by the nonprofit group Good Jobs First to help ordinary people understand the mechanics and implications of municipal bond deals. Click here to read The Three-Ring Bond Circus: How bond deals work.

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