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Venture: Prisons for profit

When Venture first launched in 1985, one stated goal was to be a TV version of the Wall Street Journal's front page: lively, lucid and wide-ranging. It's about business, but it's not just for businessmen and businesswomen. Venture covered all the aspects of the economy in Canada and beyond: prices, profits, personnel, innovation and ideas as they affect any business. From farms to fishing boats, boardrooms to barbershops, Venture was about the business of making a living.

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Privatized prisons have become a big business in the U.S., but it's a contentious issue. Proponents say they are efficient, while opponents ask whether jails should be run by people whose ultimate concern is the bottom line. Venture goes to a private prison in Tennessee to look at whether corrections and rehabilitation can still take place while trying to turn a profit. Host Patrick Watson then interviews a Canadian corrections expert to discuss the possibility of private prisons in Canada.
• Canada eventually experimented with privatized prisons, 16 years after this broadcast. The Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ont. was run by U.S.-based by Management and Training Corp. from 2001-2006. The federal government compared the Penetanguishene prison to a near-identical Central East Correctional Centre in Kawartha Lakes, Ont. An independent study found that privatization had saved money, but the publicly run prison had better security, health care and reduced repeat offender rates.

• The Corrections Corporation of America, which is profiled in this episode of Venture, is the largest privatized corrections operator in the U.S. It runs 65 facilities, overseeing about 72,500 inmates. It produced $1.3 billion US in revenue in 2006.

• Kingston, Ont. is the corrections capital of Canada, with 11 corrections facilities in and around the city. It is home to the maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, one of Canada's oldest and most notorious jails.

Medium: Television
Program: Venture
Broadcast Date: Feb. 25, 1985
Guest(s): Dennis Bradby, Travis Snellings, Irving Waller
Host: Patrick Watson
Duration: 14:03

Last updated: June 28, 2013

Page consulted on October 21, 2014

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