Inside America’s $37 billion prison economy

There are more than 2 million inmates serving time in the United States, up from 744,000 in 1985. America has the world’s highest incarceration rate, and the revolving door helps keep those prisons packed: A 2002 study by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 52 percent of released convicts were back in jail within three years.

“All of these things are terrible, but they are good for business,” says Martin Roenigk, CEO of CompuDyne, a security software and hardware provider to the corrections and homeland security markets.

State prison systems spend more than $30 billion annually, and the Bureau of Prisons budgeted $5 billion for just 182,000 federal inmates this year. That translates into plenty of work for companies looking to crack the prison market.

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