But getting a job with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – rebranded CoreCivic in 2016 – was easy for Bauer. They did not ask him about his résumé, his background in journalism or his arrest for shoplifting when he was 19. “If you come here and you breathing and you got a valid driver’s license and you willing to work, then we’re willing to hire you,” a CCA training manager told him.
Founded in 1983 by Thomas Beasley and T. Don Hutto, CoreCivic currently operates 65 state and federal correctional and detention facilities. They have a combined capacity for 90,000 inmates. Its revenue in 2016 was $1.85 billion; its gross profit $574 million. Historically, CCA’s success can be traced to the expansion of the criminal justice system during the 1980s and 1990s. During that period overcrowding in public correctional facilities, the war on drugs and stricter sentencing regimes were all a boon to the private prison industry.
Bauer was assigned to Winn Correctional Center in the heart of Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest. The facility comprised several X-shaped prison units, with four dormitories or “tiers” branching out from a central control room known as “the key.” The units were named after trees. Ash and Elm had a reputation for troublemakers. Dogwood was for well-behaved “trusties.” And the high-security Cypress was a segregation unit with private cells.