U.S. Justice Department to end use of private prisons
NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Justice plans to stop using private prisons.
They are not as safe or as well run as government correctional facilities, the Justice Department concluded after an extensive review process.
Private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in a memo Thursday.
Effective immediately, the Justice Department will seek to reduce and “ultimately end” the use of privately operated prisons. Contracts with private prison operators are not being renewed or they are being scaled back dramatically.
In 2013, about 30,000 inmates — 15% of the federal prison population — were housed in private facilities, the Justice Department said. There has been a slight decline since then in both the overall population of federal inmates and those housed in private facilities
The stocks of two of the largest private prison operators fell dramatically after The Washington Post reported the news. Corrections Corporation of America lost half of its value Thursday, tanking almost 50%. Geo Group slumped 46%.
Still, this announcement only impacts 195,000 inmates out of America’s 2.2 million incarcerated adult prisoners. Most inmates are housed in state prisons or local jails that aren’t covered by the Justice Department’s directive.
“It’s definitely good step. It’s heading in the right direction, but it isn’t as extensive as the headlines make it sound,” says Ann Schwartzman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the oldest prison reform advocacy group in the world.