There are mixed reviews coming out of a couple of the prisons run by Corrections Corp (CXW), a private prison company that is also one of Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square’s biggest investments.
One inmate, Erik Townsend, really likes one of Ackman’s prisons, because it serves “3 hots,” 3 hot meals per day.
He’s serving 15 years at La Palma in Arizona for robbery.
“It’s all right. It’s decent,” he told Bloomberg reporter Daniel Taub while he was sweeping the prison yard. At a previous prison, he only got “two hots.”
But life at another one of Ackman’s prisons, San Diego Correctional Facility, is apparently known as “Gladiator School,” because it’s so violent. (Take that review with a grain of salt. It comes straight from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys who are working on behalf of six prisoners.)
Some parts of daily ife behind bars at Ackman’s prisons seem very exciting to outsiders. To keep inmates form escaping, the La Palma prison has electrified fences and razor wire (three coils at the top of fences and three at the bottom). And kitchen staff has to count utensils 3 times a day to make sure they aren’t stolen and used as weapons (!).
But the painfully boring sneaks into life at La Palma too. In the front office, the walls are totally white, the floors are made of linoleum and “acoustic ceiling tiles and disinfectant-gel dispensers make La Palma’s front office appear part of a hospital,” says Taub.
Erik Townsend, the inmate psyched about the three hot meals, is currently getting paid tiny amounts to sweep. It’s no wonder he’s on the wait-list to take classes to become an electrician instead.
Inmates have to chose between classes and getting paid 15 cents to 37 cents an hour for working in the kitchen or doing other jobs. To keep inmates busy during the day, Corrections Corp has classes in horticulture, carpentry, plumbing and computer use that prisoners can take.