Despite repeatedly claiming they took no action regarding SB1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law, CCA actually had a significant role in developing and promoting the bill through its work with ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a nonprofit group that creates and distributes conservative model legislation on behalf of corporations who don't want to sully their reputations by being associated with much of the clearly anti-social legislation that comes out of ALEC. It's an effective front group for conservative ideology, with estimates that as many as 1 out of every 3 state legislators belong to ALEC (they don't exactly publicize a list of members; trust me, I've looked). ALEC serves as a clearinghouse for conservative legislation by literally handing model pieces to these legislators, who then work to have them passed in jurisdictions around the country. ALEC was behind California's three-strikes laws and much of the "truth in sentencing" laws (laws that require prisoners serve all or most of their sentence, effectively abolishing parole in a lot of areas) across the country, both of which were guided by CCA, which sat on the chair of ALEC's Public Safety board while these laws were debated and eventually passed (because they had contributed so much money to them - it's essentially a pay-to-play organization).
So, you may be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with Arizona's immigration law? Well it turns out that a draft version of the bill was sent to ALEC for revision before it was introduced in the Arizona legislature. That means ALEC, and by extension CCA, had direct influence on the law before it was passed, even though CCA has categorically denied it had any role in crafting the law or helping to get it passed. Further, a week after the bill's introduction, CCA hired a consulting firm owned by Jan Brewer's campaign manager to represent it in the Arizona legislature. So CCA stands to benefit financially, and significantly so, by a law it helped draft through a non-profit agency front group; with the average stay of immigration detainees now at 443 days (mostly for civil, not criminal violations), private prison companies like CCA will earn more than $62,000 per immigrant that gets arrested and detained.
CCA is extremely effective at using their money to garner political influence, through direct lobbying, campaign contributions, or their work with ALEC. After CCA spent $3.5 million to lobby on immigration and homeland security issues in 2005, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) began in 2006 to detain all immigration violators until their trial date, despite no evidence demonstrating that is a more effective way to ensure they show up for proceedings (and it's certainly a more expensive option than home monitoring). The truth in sentencing and 3-strikes laws they helped draft forced our prison system to its current obscene population, which has benefited private prisons primarily because of their ability to build and bring new facilities online quickly. As our prison population skyrocketed from these overly-harsh sentences, the number of private prisons grew by 500% between 1995-2003, and the large majority of prison construction for the federal system has been private ever since.
So at this point it seems pretty clear that CCA influenced the legislation that became Arizona's "Breathing While Brown Law," even though they continue to deny any involvement. As with other large corrupt industries however, the ties go even deeper than just their work in this one front group (ALEC). In a fantastic piece of investigative journalism, Beau Hodai of In These Times magazine uncovered a treasure trove of political relationships and influence in Arizona that really helps to clarify the picture of how CCA is connected to Governor Brewer's office through multiple sources and various industry front groups. The private prison industry and its political connections form one large revolving door of influence, which has been very effective at keeping CCA profitable in Arizona, at the great expense of Arizona taxpayers.