WASHINGTON -- Certificates of participation that finance for-profit prisons have emerged as the riskiest category of lease securities, with the nine defaults on such issues since 1990 constituting more than a third of lease defaults nationwide, a study released last month by John Nuveen & Co. says.

The report, by analyst John Illyes, nevertheless finds that many prison lease issues are creditworthy and provides advice on how to avoid the bad apples in this growing sector of the lease market.

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