As states across the country adopt harsh new sentencing laws, private prison companies are celebrating, telling investors that they soon expect more people in their prisons — and even higher profits.

From Mississippi to California, many states have taken a decided “tough on crime” tack over the past two years in a strengthening backlash to criminal justice reform efforts in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. This year, Louisiana passed a package of harsh sentencing laws that will keep some people in prison for years longer. A new parole board in Mississippi is keeping people in prison for longer terms by denying early release. In March, Washington, DC, enacted a sweeping anti-crime package.

These laws, advocates warn, threaten to reverse years of progress in the fight against mass incarceration. Instead, they would again trap people in prison for lengthy terms, ripping apart communities and exacerbating racial and socioeconomic inequality — while enriching the private firms that manage prisons and their shareholders.