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Democrats vow to close private prisons, detention centers

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Democrats vow to close private prisons, detention centers

The Democratic Party has made reforming mandatory minimum sentencesand shutting down private prisons and detention centers part of its 2016 platform.

The party did not explicitly mention in the document companieslike Corrections Corp. of Americaor GEO Group Inc., bothof which converted to REITs in recent years, but it did implicate the prison REITs'business in a broader rebuke of the for-profit prison industry.

"Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justicesystem and ending mass incarceration," the platform states. "Somethingis profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world's prison population is inthe United States, even though our country has less than five percent of the world'spopulation. … Research and evidence, rather than slogans and sound bites, must guidecriminal justice policies."

The campaign of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nomineefor president, reportedly accepted contributions from private prison concerns buthas since come out against the private prison industry.

The Republican Party platform addresses prison reform and attacks"over-criminalization" in the U.S. justice system, but it makes no explicitmention of the private or for-profit prison industry.

In an email, Corrections Corp.'s Steven Owen, managing directorof communications, touted the company's contributions to community safety, inmatere-entry and government cost-savings and lamented the politicization of the dialoguesurrounding private prisons today.

"It's unfortunate that politicians advocate against thesebenefits without themselves providing any solutions to the serious challenges ourcorrections and detention systems face," Owen said. "Overcrowding, highrecidivism rates and skyrocketing costs aren't solved with politics or posturing."

Owen noted in the email that the company "does not lobbyfor or against — or take any position on — policies or legislation that would determinethe basis for or duration of an individual's incarceration or detention."

GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment. The DemocraticNational Committee and the Republican National Committee were unavailable for comment.

At NAREIT's REITWeek in June, Corrections Corp. CEO Damon Hiningerwas asked about the implicationsof a potential Clinton White House, and he held up the company's long record ofoperating profitably in any political climate as evidence of its likely successgoing forward.

"I can't speak in absolutes and make definitive statements,but I would say, being around 30 years, and being in operation in many, many states,and also working with the federal government going back to the '80s … we've donevery, very well," Hininger said.

GEO Group Chairman and CEO George Zoley commented on the electionbriefly on the company's April 28 first-quarter earnings call. "We believe we provide essentialgovernment services at the federal level and in the state level. And … historically,those services have received bipartisan support, and we expect that support to continuein the future," Zoley said, according to a transcript.

At REITWeek in June, GEO Group's CFO, Brian Evans, acknowledgedthat Clinton had made "some negative comments" about private prisons,but he touted GEO Group's "good relationships" with its customers, accordingto a transcript.

Corrections Corp. will host its second-quarter earnings callJuly 28, and GEO Group will host its earnings call Aug. 2.