But if the billion private-prison industry had its own Mount Rushmore, Wackenhut’s thin-lipped face would've been carved into it long ago.Wackenhut grew up in Upper Darby and had an unforgettable brush with history after graduating from West Chester University. Edgar Hoover heyday in the early 1950s and went on to create a private security firm, the Wackenhut Corp., in 1954, according to a detailed account of his rise from the collaborative online news outlet Muck Rock.After breaking his back in a work accident, he became addicted to opioids and began a downward spiral that led him here, to a cell inside the 1,883-bed George W.Hill Correctional Facility in Thornton, Delaware County.
Exactly “The private-prison industry is a little bit of a black box,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a former prosecutor who now works as a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Criminal Justice at New York University School of Law.(It was renamed the GEO Group in 2003, a year before Wackenhut died at 85.) Thanks in part to a nationwide embrace of tough-on-crime policies as part of the war on drugs, the overall number of federal inmates in the United States mushroomed from 25,000 in 1980 to a peak of 219,000 in 2012, according to the Inspector General’s Office.GEO, Core Civic (formerly known as CCA), and companies like them were supposed to help the overwhelmed Bureau of Prisons safely manage a percentage of this ever-growing prison population — and for less money than it would have cost to simply enlarge the bureau. The simple life he once knew in Chichester — one where he worked at a steel mill and provided for his two kids — was a faded memory, a snapshot from a stranger's photo album. His body was drenched in a cold sweat, and he trembled and shook like a radiator on its last legs.