Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial suggestion of building a prison in Mexico to more cheaply hold felons isn't all that far-fetched, especially considering how much the state already spends to house inmates outside of California.
The Corrections Corporation of America has been awarded a total of $700 million of contracts in the last three years to house over 8,000 California prisoners, and hasn't even had to bid for the work.
That's because the deals were signed in a rush as state-run facilities have been filled past capacity.
Probably not surprisingly, the company has generously donated to political campaigns, including $100,000 for Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed budget reform ballot initiative.
The state plans to continue spending $200 million a year to ship felons to CCA's facilities, with over 2,400 more prisoners planned to be remanded to the private company's care.
Over the last forty years, the state has significantly shifted its priorities, and now spends as nearly as much on incarceration than it does on higher education, and the $23,000 per year per inmate that CCA earns? That's two and a half times what the state spends on each student for primary education.
As an NBC Bay Area editorial pointed out, "The less educated our workforce, the more we feed the prisons."
Jackson West figures California is still a land of opportunity -- for companies that build and manage prisons.