On Monday, the president of the largest for-profit prison corporation in the nation published a blog post wishing everyone a happy Black History Month. Damon Hininger, president and CEO of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), also urged readers to celebrate the month by honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “dream of equality for all people.”
Critics say Hininger’s well wishes are ironic considering the prison population CCA profits from is disproportionately made up of black men and women.
“We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by embracing his dream of equality for all people - regardless of race, creed or color,” Hininger wrote in the blog post.
Hininger goes on to cite President Barack Obama’s re-election and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation as moments in history that inspire him.
“We can also make a decision to be of service - to take actions that improve our communities and, ultimately, our society. The CCA Family is so diverse. Each of us possesses a unique heritage that deserves to be recognized and celebrated. Our individual stories make up the narrative of American history,” wrote Hininger.
Alex Stamm of the ACLU Center for Justice points out it’s ironic Hininger references the Emancipation Proclamation because today “there are more black men in prison and jail, or on probation and parole, than were slaves before the start of the Civil War.”
“What’s most unsettling about Mr. Hininger’s missive is that it’s so completely unconscious of the reality that his company supports and depends upon a system of mass incarceration that has devastated the black community,” Stamm writes on the ACLU.org blog.
Christopher Francis Petrella, a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at the UC Berkeley, found people of color are over-represented in private prisons by an additional 12%. The study analyzed prison populations in California, Texas, and Arizona because they warehouse some of the largest numbers of inmates in private, for-profit prisons in the nation.
Petrella teamed up with Josh Begley, a graduate student in Interactive Telecommunications at NYU, and studied Census data and other inmate population data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“Our sense is that applying privatization to the most vulnerable and politically marginalized racial groups allows state DOCs and the private prison industry to externalize costs without facing “legitimate” public backlash,” Petrella and Begley wrote in their report “The Color of Corporate Corrections.”
“The overrepresentation of bodies of color in private prison facilities suggests that communities of color are seen as unworthy of taxpayer supported public investment. That is, relative to for-profit correctional institutions, people of color are disproportionately siphoned away from public facilities, precisely the types of facilities that provide the most educational, pro-social, and rehabilitative programs,” Petrella and Begley went on to say in the report.
In 2011, Hininger’s total compensation from CCA was $3,696,798, according to Forbes. If his salary has remained the same, this black history month he’ll be compensated with more than $300,000.
Check out the infographic designed by Begley below.