Selected Feature

The Nation Digital Edition Jan 5, 1998

Selected Feature

Over the next 5 years analysts expect the private share of the prison "market" to more than double.

By Eric Bates

A few hours after midnight one August evening last year, Walter Hazelwood and Richard Wilson climbed a fence topped with razor wire at the Houston Processing Center, a warehouse built to hold undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation. Once outside, the two prisoners assaulted a guard, stole his car and headed for Dallas.

When prison officials notified the Houston police that the men had escaped, local authorities were shocked. Sure, immigrants had fled the minimum-security facility near the airport a few times before. But Hazelwood and Wilson were not being detained for lacking the papers to prove their citizenship. One was serving time for sexual abuse; the other was convicted of beating and raping an 88-year-old woman. Both men, it turned out, were among some 240 sex offenders from Oregon who had been shipped to the Texas detention center months earlier--and local authorities didn't even know they were there.

The immigration center is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which manages more private prisons than any other company worldwide. While C.C.A. made nearly $14,000 a day on the out-of-state inmates, the company was quick to point out that it had no legal obligation to tell the Houston police or county sheriff about their new neighbors from Oregon. "We designed and built the institution," explained Susan Hart, a company spokeswoman. "It is ours."

Yet like a well-to-do rancher who discovers a couple of valuable head of cattle missing, C.C.A. expected Texas rangers to herd the wayward animals back behind the company's fence. "It's not our function to capture them," Hart told reporters.

Catching the prisoners proved easier, however, than charging them with a crime. When authorities finally apprehended them after eleven days, they discovered they could no more punish the men for escaping than they could lock up a worker for walking off the job. Even in Texas, it seemed, it was not yet a crime to flee a private corporation.

"They have not committed the offense of escape under Texas law," said district attorney John Holmes. "The only reason at all that they're subject to being arrested and were arrested was because during their leaving the facility, they assaulted a guard and took his motor vehicle. That we can charge them with, and have."

The state moved quickly to pass legislation making such escapes illegal. But the Texas breakout underscores how the rapid spread of private prisons has created considerable confusion about just what the rules are when a for-profit company like Corrections Corporation seeks to cash in on incarceration. Founded in 1983 with backing from the investors behind Kentucky Fried Chicken, C.C.A. was one of the first companies to push the privatization of public services. The selling point was simple: Private companies could build and run prisons cheaper than the government. Business, after all, would be free of red tape--those inefficient procedures that waste tax dollars on things like open bidding on state contracts and job security for public employees. Unfettered American capitalism would produce a better fetter, saving cash-strapped counties and states millions of dollars each year.

Sooner or later, people realize that "the government can't do anything very well," Thomas Beasley, a co-founder of C.C.A. and a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, said near the start of prison privatization. "At that point, you just sell it like you were selling cars or real estate or hamburgers."

Not everyone is quite so enthusiastic about the prospect of selling human beings like so many pieces of meat. By privatizing prisons, government essentially auctions off inmates--many of them young black men--to the highest bidder. Opponents ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Sheriffs Association have argued that justice should not be for sale at any price. "The bottom line is a moral one," says Ira Robbins, who wrote a statement for the American Bar Association opposing private corrections. "Do we want our justice system to be operated by private interests? This is not like privatizing the post office or waste management to provide services to the community. There's something meaningful lost when an inmate looks at a guard's uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads 'Federal Bureau of Prisons' or 'State Department of Corrections,' he sees one that says 'Acme Prison Corporation.'"

But such moral concerns have gone largely unheeded in all the excitement over how much money the boys at Acme might save taxpayers. There's only one problem: The evidence suggests that the savings reaped from nearly fifteen years of privatizing prisons are more elusive than an Oregon convict in a Texas warehouse.

In 1996 the General Accounting Office examined the few available reports comparing costs at private and public prisons. Its conclusion: "These studies do not offer substantial evidence that savings have occurred." The most reliable study cited by the G.A.O. found that a C.C.A.-run prison in Tennessee cost only 1 percent less to operate than two comparable state-run prisons. The track record also suggests that private prisons invite political corruption and do little to improve quality, exacerbating the conditions that lead to abuse and violence.

Although private prisons have failed to save much money for taxpayers, they generate enormous profits for the companies that own and operate them. Corrections Corporation ranks among the top five performing companies on the New York Stock Exchange over the past three years. The value of its shares has soared from $50 million when it went public in 1986 to more than $3.5 billion at its peak last October. By carefully selecting the most lucrative prison contracts, slashing labor costs and sticking taxpayers with the bill for expenses like prisoner escapes, C.C.A. has richly confirmed the title of a recent stock analysis by PaineWebber: "Crime pays."

"It's easier for private firms to innovate," says Russell Boraas, who oversees private prisons for the Virginia Department of Corrections. As he inspects a medium-security facility being built by C.C.A. outside the small town of Lawrenceville, Boraas notes that the prison has no guard towers--an "innovation" that saves the company $2.5 million in construction costs and eliminates twenty-five full-time positions. "Think about it," Boraas says. "A state corrections director who eliminates guard towers will lose his job if a prisoner escapes and molests a little old lady. The president of the company won't lose his job, as long as he's making a profit."

Although corrections officials like Boraas initially viewed the drive to privatize prisons with skepticism, many quickly became converts. The crime rate nationwide remains well below what it was twenty-five years ago, but harsher sentencing has packed prisons and jails to the bursting point. There are now 1.8 million Americans behind bars--more than twice as many as a decade ago--and the "get tough" stance has sapped public resources and sparked court orders to improve conditions.

With their promise of big savings, private prisons seemed to offer a solution. Corporate lockups can now hold an estimated 77,500 prisoners, most of them state inmates. Over the next five years, analysts expect the private share of the prison "market" to more than double.

Corrections Corporation is far and away the biggest company in the corrections business, controlling more than half of all inmates in private prisons nationwide. C.C.A. now operates the sixth-largest prison system in the country--and is moving aggressively to expand into the global market with prisons in England, Australia and Puerto Rico. That's good news for investors. The Cabot Market Letter compares the company to a "a hotel that's always at 100 % occupancy...and booked to the end of the century." C.C.A. started taking reservations during the Reagan Administration, when Beasley founded the firm in Nashville with a former classmate from West Point. Their model was the Hospital Corporation of America, then the nation's largest owner of private hospitals. "This is the home of H.C.A.," Beasley thought at the time. "The synergies are the same."

From the start, those synergies included close ties to politicians who could grant the company lucrative contracts. As former chairman of the state G.O.P., Beasley was a good friend of then-Governor Lamar Alexander. In 1985 Alexander backed a plan to hand over the entire state prison system to the fledgling company for $200 million. Among C.C.A.'s stockholders at the time were the Governor's wife, Honey, and Ned McWherter, the influential Speaker of the state House, who succeeded Alexander as governor.

Although the state legislature eventually rejected the plan as too risky, C.C.A. had established itself as a major player. It had also discovered that knowing the right people can be more important than actually saving taxpayers money. The company won its first bid to run a prison by offering to operate the Silverdale Work Farm near Chattanooga for $21 per inmate per day. At $3 less than the county was spending, it seemed like a good deal--until a crackdown on drunk drivers flooded the work farm with new inmates. Because fixed expenses were unaffected by the surge, each new prisoner cost C.C.A. about $5. But the county, stuck with a contract that required it to pay the company $21 a head, found itself $200,000 over budget. "The work farm became a gold mine," noted John Donahue, a public policy professor at Harvard University.

When the contract came up for renewal in 1986, however, county commissioners voted to stick with Corrections Corporation. Several enjoyed business ties with the company. One commissioner had a pest-control contract with the firm, and later went to work for C.C.A. as a lobbyist. Another did landscaping at the prison, and a third ran the moving company that settled the warden into his new home. C.C.A. also put the son of the county employee responsible for monitoring the Silverdale contract on the payroll at its Nashville headquarters. The following year, the U.S. Justice Department published a research report warning about such conflicts of interest in on-site monitoring--the only mechanism for insuring that prison operators abide by the contract. In addition to being a hidden and costly expense of private prisons, the report cautioned, government monitors could "be co-opted by the contractor's staff. Becoming friendly or even beholden to contract personnel could lead to the State receiving misleading reports."

But even when problems have been reported, officials often downplay them. The Justice Department noted "substantial staff turnover problems" at the Chattanooga prison, for instance, but added that "this apparently did not result in major reductions in service quality." The reason? "This special effort to do a good job," the report concluded, "is probably due to the private organizations finding themselves in the national limelight, and their desire to expand the market."

The same year that federal officials were crediting C.C.A. with "a good job" at the undermanned facility, Rosalind Bradford, a 23-year-old woman being held at Silverdale, died from an undiagnosed complication during pregnancy. A shift supervisor who later sued the company testified that Bradford suffered in agony for at least twelve hours before C.C.A. officials allowed her to be taken to a hospital. "Rosalind Bradford died out there, in my opinion, of criminal neglect," the supervisor said in a deposition.

Inspectors from the British Prison Officers Association who visited the prison that year were similarly shocked by what they witnessed. "We saw evidence of inmates being cruelly treated," the inspectors reported. "Indeed, the warden admitted that noisy and truculent prisoners are gagged with sticky tape, but this had caused a problem when an inmate almost choked to death."

The inspectors were even more blunt when they visited the C.C.A.-run immigration center in Houston, where they found inmates confined to warehouselike dormitories for twenty-three hours a day. The private facility, inspectors concluded, demonstrated "possibly the worst conditions we have ever witnessed in terms of inmate care and supervision."

Reports of inhumane treatment of prisoners, while deeply disturbing, do not by themselves indicate that private prisons are worse than public ones. After all, state and federal lockups have never been known for their considerate attitude toward the people under their watch. Indeed, C.C.A. and other company prisons have drawn many of their wardens and guards from the ranks of public corrections officers. The guards videotaped earlier this year assaulting prisoners with stun guns at a C.C.A. competitor in Texas had been hired despite records of similar abuse when they worked for the state.

Susan Hart, the C.C.A. spokeswoman, insisted that her company would never put such people on the payroll--well, almost never. "It would be inappropriate, for certain positions, [to hire] someone who said, 'Yes, I beat a prisoner to death,'" she told The Houston Chronicle. "That would be a red flag for us." She did not specify for which positions the company considers murder an appropriate job qualification.

In fact, C.C.A. employs at least two wardens in Texas who were disciplined for beating prisoners while employed by the state. And David Myers, the president of the company, supervised an assault on inmates who took a guard hostage while Myers was serving as warden of a Texas prison in 1984. Fourteen guards were later found to have used "excessive force," beating subdued and handcuffed prisoners with riot batons.

The real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same economic logic that motivates companies to run prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Private prisons essentially mirror the cost-cutting practices of health maintenance organizations: Companies receive a guaranteed fee for each prisoner, regardless of the actual costs. Every dime they don't spend on food or medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket.

As in most industries, the biggest place to cut prison expenses is personnel. "The bulk of the cost savings enjoyed by C.C.A. is the result of lower labor costs," PaineWebber assures investors. Labor accounts for roughly 70 percent of all prison expenses, and C.C.A. prides itself on getting more from fewer employees. "With only a 36 percent increase in personnel," boasts the latest annual report, "revenues grew 41 percent, operating income grew 98 percent, and net income grew 115 percent."

Like other companies, C.C.A. prefers to design and build its own prisons so it can replace guards right from the start with video cameras and clustered cellblocks that are cheaper to monitor. "The secret to low-cost operations is having the minimum number of officers watching the maximum number of inmates," explains Russell Boraas, the private prison administrator for Virginia. "You can afford to pay damn near anything for construction if it will get you an efficient prison."

At the C.C.A. prison under construction in Lawrenceville, Boraas indicates how the design of the "control room" will enable a guard to simultaneously watch three "pods" of 250 prisoners each. Windows in the elevated room afford an unobstructed view of each cellblock below, and "vision blocks" in the floor are positioned over each entranceway so guards can visually identify anyone being admitted. The high-tech panel at the center of the room can open any door at the flick of a switch. When the prison opens next year, C.C.A. will employ five guards to supervise 750 prisoners during the day, and two guards at night.

Another way to save money on personnel is to leave positions unfilled when they come open. Speaking before a legislative panel in Tennessee in October, Boraas noted that some private prisons in Texas have made up for the low reimbursement rates they receive from the state "by leaving positions vacant a little longer than they should." Some C.C.A. employees admit privately that the company leaves positions open to boost profits. "We're always short," says one guard who asked not to be identified. "They do staff fewer positions--that's one way they save money." The company is growing so quickly, another guard explains, that "we have more slots than we have people to fill them. When they transfer officers to new facilities, we're left with skeletons."

At first glance, visitors to the South Central Correctional Center could be forgiven for mistaking the medium-security prison for a college campus. The main driveway rolls through wooded hills on the outskirts of Clifton, Tennessee, past picnic benches, a fitness track and a horse barn. But just inside the front door, a prominent bulletin board makes clear that the prison means business. At the top are the words "C.C.A. Excellence in Corrections." At the bottom is "Yesterday's Stock Closing," followed by a price.

In addition to employing fewer guards, C.C.A. saves money on labor by replacing the guaranteed pensions earned by workers at state-run prisons with a cheaper--and riskier--stock-ownership plan. Employees get a chance to invest in the company, and the company gets employees devoted to the bottom line. "Being a stockholder yourself, you monitor things closer," says Mark Staggs, standing in the segregation unit, where he oversees prisoners confined for breaking the rules. "You make sure you don't waste money on things like cleaning products. Because it's your money you're spending."

Warden Kevin Myers (not related to C.C.A. president David Myers) also looks for little places to cut costs. "I can save money on purchasing because there's no bureaucracy," he says. "If I see a truckload of white potatoes at a bargain, I can buy them. I'm always negotiating for a lower price."

But what is thriftiness to the warden is just plain miserly to those forced to eat what he dishes out. "Ooowhee! It's pitiful in that kitchen," says Antonio McCraw, who was released from South Central last March after serving three years for armed robbery. "I just thank God I'm out of there. You might get a good meal once a month. The rest was instant potatoes, vegetables out of a can and processed pizzas. C.C.A. don't care whether you eat or not. Sure they may cut corners and do it for less money, but is it healthy?"

The State of Tennessee hoped to answer that question when it turned South Central over to C.C.A. in 1992. The prison was built at roughly the same time as two state-run facilities with similar designs and inmate populations, giving officials a rare opportunity to compare daily operating costs--and quality--under privatization.

The latest state report on violence at the three prisons indicates that South Central is a much more dangerous place than its public counterparts. During the past fiscal year, the C.C.A. prison experienced violent incidents at a rate more than 50 percent higher than state facilities. The company also posted significantly worse rates for contraband, drugs and assaults on staff and prisoners.

"If that doesn't raise some eyebrows and give you some kind of indication of what the future holds, I guess those of us who are concerned just need to be quiet," says John Mark Windle, a state representative who opposes privatization.

Corrections officials note that understaffing can certainly fuel violence, which winds up costing taxpayers more money. The state legislature has heard testimony that employee turnover at South Central is more than twice the level at state prisons, and prisoners report seeing classes of new recruits every month, many of them young and inexperienced. "The turnover rate is important because it shows whether you have experienced guards who stick around and know the prisoners," says inmate Alex Friedmann, seated at a bare table in a visitation room. "If you have a high turnover rate you have less stability. New employees come in; they really don't know what's going on. That leads to conflicts with inmates."

Internal company documents tell a similar story. According to the minutes of an August 1995 meeting of shift supervisors at South Central, chief of security Danny Scott "said we all know that we have lots of new staff and are constantly in the training mode." He "added that so many employees were totally lost and had never worked in corrections."

A few months later, a company survey of staff members at the prison asked, "What is the reason for the number of people quitting C.C.A.?" Nearly 20 percent of employees cited "treatment by supervisors," and 17 percent listed "money."

Out of earshot of their supervisors, some guards also say the company contributes to violence by skimping on activities for inmates. "We don't give them anything to do," says one officer. "We give them the bare minimum we have to."

Ron Lyons agrees. "There's no meaningful programs here," says Lyons, who served time at state-run prisons before coming to South Central. "I can't get over how many people are just laying around in the pod every day. I would have thought C.C.A. would have known that inmate idleness is one of the biggest problems in prisons--too much time sitting around doing nothing. You definitely realize it's commercialized. It's a business. Their business is to feed you and count you, and that's it."

Given all the penny-pinching, it would seem that C.C.A. should easily be able to demonstrate significant savings at South Central. Instead, a study of costs conducted by the state in 1995 found that the company provided almost no savings compared with its two public rivals. The study--cited by the General Accounting Office as "the most sound and detailed comparison of operational costs"--actually showed that the C.C.A. prison cost more to run on a daily basis. Even after the state factored in its long-term expenses, C.C.A. still spent $35.38 a day per prisoner--only 38 cents less than the state average.

The study contradicted what is supposed to be the most compelling rationale for prison privatization: the promise of big savings. But the industry champion dismissed its defeat by insisting, much to the amazement of its challengers, that it hadn't tried very hard to save tax dollars. "When you're in a race and you can win by a few steps, that's what you do," said Doctor R. Crants, who co-founded C.C.A. and now serves as chairman and chief executive officer. "We weren't trying to win by a great deal."

The comment by Crants, as remarkable as it seems, exposes the true nature of privatization. When it comes to savings, the prison industry will beat state spending by as narrow a margin as the state will permit. To a prison company like C.C.A., "savings" are nothing but the share of profits it is required to hand over to the government--another expense that cuts into the bottom line and must therefore be kept to a minimum, like wages or the price of potatoes. At its heart, privatizing prisons is really about privatizing tax dollars, about transforming public money into private profits.

That means companies are actually looking for ways to keep public spending as high as possible, including charging taxpayers for questionable expenses. The New Mexico Corrections Department, for example, has accused C.C.A. of overcharging the state nearly $2 million over the past eight years for operating the women's prison in Grants. The company fee of $95 a day for each inmate, it turns out, includes $22 for debt service on the prison.

Last summer, a legislative committee in Tennessee calculated that state prisons contribute nearly $17.8 million each year to state agencies that provide central services like printing, payroll administration and insurance. Since company prisons usually go elsewhere for such services, states that privatize unwittingly lose money they once counted on to help pay fixed expenses.

The "chargebacks," as they are known, came to light last spring when C.C.A. once again proposed taking over the entire Tennessee prison system. This time the company offered to save $100 million a year--a staggering sum, considering that the annual budget for the system is only $270 million.

Like many claims of savings, the C.C.A. offer turned out to be based on false assumptions. Crants, the company chairman and C.E.O., said he derived the estimate from comparing the $32 daily rate the company charges for medium-security prisoners at South Central with the systemwide average of $54. But the state system includes maximum-security prisons that cost much more to operate than South Central. "It's almost like going into a rug store," says State Senator James Kyle, who chaired legislative hearings on privatization. "They're always 20 percent off. But 20 percent off what?"

Yet the sales pitch, however absurd, had the intended effect of getting Kyle and other lawmakers into the store to look around. Once there, the prison companies kept offering them bigger and better deals. Given an opportunity to submit cost estimates anonymously, firms offered fantastic savings ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent. Threatened by the competition, even the state Department of Corrections went bargain basement, offering to slash its own already low cost by $70 million a year. Despite opposition from state employees, legislators indicated after the hearings that they support a move to turn most prisoners over to private companies--a decision that delighted C.C.A. "I was pretty pleased," Crants said afterward. The governor and legislators are wrangling over the details, but both sides have agreed informally to privatize roughly two-thirds of the Tennessee system. A few prisons will be left in the hands of the state, just in case something goes wrong.

Lawmakers didn't have to look far to see how wrong things can go. South Carolina decided last February not to renew a one-year contract with C.C.A. for a juvenile detention center in the state capital. Child advocates reported hearing about horrific abuses at the facility, where some boys say they were hogtied and shackled together. "The bottom line is the staff there were inexperienced," said Robyn Zimmerman of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. "They were not trained properly."

Once again, though, such stark realities proved less influential than the political connections enjoyed by C.C.A. The chief lobbyist for the company in the Tennessee legislature is married to the Speaker of the state House. Top C.C.A. executives, board members and their spouses have contributed at least $110,000 to state candidates since 1993, including $1,350 to Senator Kyle. And five state officials--including the governor, the House Speaker and the sponsor of the privatization bill--are partners with C.C.A. co-founder Thomas Beasley in several Red Hot & Blue barbecue restaurants in Tennessee.

The political clout extends to the national level as well. On the Republican side, Corrections Corporation employs the services of J. Michael Quinlan, director of the federal Bureau of Prisons under George Bush. On the Democratic side, C.C.A. reserves a seat on its seven-member board for Joseph Johnson, former executive director of the Rainbow Coalition. The Nashville Tennessean points to Johnson as evidence that the company "looks like America.... Johnson is African-American," the paper observes, "as are 60 % of C.C.A.'s prisoners."

Johnson played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role earlier this year, using his political connections to help C.C.A. swing a deal to buy a prison from the District of Columbia for $52 million. It was the first time a government sold a prison to a private company, and C.C.A. hopes it won't be the last. Earlier this year, with backing from financial heavyweights like Lehman Brothers and PaineWebber, the company formed C.C.A. Prison Realty Trust to focus solely on buying prisons. The initial stock offering raised $388.5 million from investors to enable C.C.A. to speculate on prisons as real estate.

Why would cities or states sell their prisons to the C.C.A. trust? PaineWebber cites the lure of what it calls "free money." Unlike many public bond initiatives earmarked for specific projects like schools or sewage systems, the broker explains, "the sale of an existing prison would generate proceeds that a politician could then use for initiatives that fit his or her agenda, possibly improving the chances of re-election." Companies building their own prisons certainly receive friendly treatment from officials. Russell Boraas invited companies bidding on a private prison to a meeting and asked what he could do to help. "I said, 'Guys, I know quite a bit about running construction projects, but I don't know much about private prisons. What are you looking for? What can I do to make this user-friendly for you?' They said it would be nice if they could use tax-exempt bond issues for construction, just like the state." So Boraas allowed companies to finance construction with help from taxpayers, and a local Industrial Development Authority eventually aided C.C.A. in getting $58 million in financing to build the prison.

Such deals raise concerns that private prisons may wind up costing taxpayers more in the long run. Although governments remain legally responsible for inmates guarded by public companies, firms have little trouble finding ways to skirt public oversight while pocketing public money. Instead of streamlining the system, hiring corporations to run prisons actually adds a layer of bureaucracy that can increase costs and reduce accountability. Prison companies have been known to jack up prices when their contracts come up for renewal, and some defer maintenance on prisons since they aren't responsible for them once their contract expires.

Even more disturbing, private prisons have the financial incentive--and financial influence--to lobby lawmakers for harsher prison sentences and other "get tough" measures. In the prison industry, after all, locking people up is good for business. "If you really want to save money you can lock prisoners in a box and feed them a slice of bread each day," says Alex Friedmann, the prisoner at South Central. "The real question is, Can you run programs in such a way that people don't commit more crime? That should be the mark of whether privatization is successful in prisons--not whether you keep them locked up but whether you keep them out."

C.C.A. officials dismiss such concerns, confident the current boom will continue of its own accord. "I don't think we have to worry about running out of product," says Kevin Myers, the warden at South Central. "It's unfortunate but true. We don't have to drum up business."

Perhaps--but Corrections Corporation and other company prisons already have enormous power to keep their current prisoners behind bars for longer stretches. Inmates generally lose accumulated credit for "good time" when they are disciplined by guards, giving the C.C.A. stockholders who serve as officers an incentive to crack the whip. A 1992 study by the New Mexico Corrections Department showed that inmates at the women's prison run by C.C.A. lost good time at a rate nearly eight times higher than their male counterparts at a state-run lockup. And every day a prisoner loses is a day of extra income for the company--and an extra expense for taxpayers.

Some C.C.A. guards in Tennessee also say privately that they are encouraged to write up prisoners for minor infractions and place them in segregation. Inmates in "seg" not only lose their good time, they also have thirty days added to their sentence--a bonus of nearly $1,000 for the company at some prisons. "We will put 'em in seg in a hurry," says a guard who works at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Facility in Nashville.

The prison holds 100 youths--"children, really," says the guard--most of them teenage boys. "They may be young, but they understand what's going on," he adds. One day, as a 14-year-old boy was being released after serving his sentence, the guard offered him some friendly advice.

"Stay out of trouble," he said. "I don't want to see you back here."

"Why not?" the kid responded. "That's how you make your money." *

Eric Bates is a staff writer with The Independent in Durham, North Carolina. Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

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