The real news is why anyone would expect a government-granted and protected monopoly to be any different.
The quote in the article about the hotel industry was telling. "Private" prisons are nothing like the hotel industry. Hotel customers are voluntary, have many choices due to a relatively open market, and can switch at any time if they are unhappy with the service.
That comparison, though, points us to a partial solution: competitive private prisons where the prisoners get to choose where they go. This isn't a hugely better solution, but it at least puts a roadblock between the cronies and their government benefactors, disconnecting some of the incentives to keep the prisons full.