Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nashville-based prison operator CCA will get new CEO

Damon Hininger, who started his career at Corrections Corporation of America as a prison guard more than a decade ago, will succeed John Ferguson as chief executive of the Nashville-based private prison operator effective Oct. 15.
Hininger, who now serves as president and chief operating officer, also will get a seat on the board. Ferguson will retain his role as chairman of the board of directors but will retire from daily operations of the company.

The company said Ferguson, 64, is scaling back his involvement under a succession plan put in place when Hininger took over as president last year. With nine grandchildren, Ferguson said he wants to have more time to spend with family.

"While at CCA I faced many opportunities and challenges, but I always found it fulfilling and rewarding," Ferguson said in a statement. "Although I will continue to be involved with CCA's board, and expect to remain quite active during the transition, I look forward to the next chapter of my life."

In 1996, Hininger joined CCA as a prison guard in Leavenworth, Kan., and has held a variety of posts since then, moving quickly into the executive ranks. He holds a bachelor's degree from Kansas State University and a master's of business administration degree from Belmont University.

Ferguson arrived at CCA nine years ago, and was named chairman of the board and CEO in July 2008. Hininger was promoted to president and chief operating officer at the same time.

A mentor and friend

Hininger praised Ferguson's contributions through the years.

"John has been a real mentor and a friend," Hininger said. "When he first came in, it was one of most tumultuous times in the company's history. He built a very good management structure, and brought a very collaborative culture to the organization, putting us on a path to grow in a meaningful way."

The company houses about 78,000 prisoners daily under contracts with the federal government and individual states. California is the largest state customer, Hininger said.

CCA provides beds for about 3,500 California inmates now, and has a contract calling for that to increase to 8,000. California's recent budget crisis put that contract in doubt for a while, but the state now plans to "continue ramping up" the contract with CCA, Hininger said.

The company also has contracts to add 750 beds for Arizona prisoners at a facility in Colorado and to expand two Georgia prisons by 1,500 beds. It also recently broke ground in Nevada for an additional 1,000 beds for the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal prisoners, Hininger said.

CCA is the nation's largest private prison operator, and the fifth-largest prison operator overall, including various state and federal systems.

People in BusinessCalifornia Enjoying Summer Sales Sizzle