This month's Prison Legal News has a very good profile of a for-profit prison firm in Louisiana—how it came to be, who runs it (a money-minded preacher is part of the story), and how raking in the money interferes with criminal justice. (The link is a pdf, FYI.)
Unique circumstances have combined to make northern Louisiana a prime location for private prisons, as Louisiana sheriffs can profit by letting a private company build and operate facilities that house both local prisoners and prisoners from other jurisdictions. Meanwhile, other parish prisons – especially those in the densely-populated southern part of the state – and Louisiana’s state prisons are severely overcrowded and provide a steady stream of prisoners to fill the for-profit facilities in the north.
Currently, over half of the state's approximately 40,000 prisoners are incarcerated in local parish prisons, which are operated by sheriffs or a private company. It costs the state an average of $55 per day to house a prisoner in a state facility. Yet the state pays sheriffs a mere $24.39 per diem to house state prisoners in parish prisons...
Warden Alan Cupp of the Richland Parish Detention Center (RPDC) in Mangham, Louisiana, a town with a non-prisoner population of 672, calls the approximately 800 beds in his jail his "honey holes." When they are full the honey flows nicely—in a good year, the facility generates $700,000 in revenue.
It's not like that $55 a day the state spends on prisoners is for deluxe accommodations with all the frills. So how do sheriffs/businessmen make so much money on housing prisoners for less than half that—so much money that they call the jail beds "honey holes"?