Last week, the Department of Justice released an inspector general’s report on private prisons that found for-profit detention centers to be substantially more dangerous for both the inmates and for the correctional officers. In response to those findings, the Obama Administration is moving to stop keeping federal detainees in private prisons altogether within the next five years. President Obama has already overseen a fifty percent reduction in the use of federal private prisons, which are run by three corporations and cost over $600 million tax dollars annually.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope.
The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.
The 13 privately run facilities will not close overnight. Yates said the Justice Department would not terminate existing contracts but instead review those that come up for renewal. She said all of the contracts would come up for renewal over the next five years…. by May 1, 2017, the total private prison population would stand at less than 14,200 inmates.
She said it was “hard to know precisely” when all the privately run facilities would no longer have federal inmates, though she noted 14,200 was less than half the inmates they held at their apex three years ago, a figure she said indicated the department was “well on our way to ultimately eliminating the use of private prisons entirely.”
The three private prison operators, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group Inc., and Management and Training Corporation oppose the action and will certainly not go down without a fight. Hot on the heels of the announcement, stock in the GEO Group has plummeted and is down over 40% right now.
But Yates’ action isn’t the only important part of the federal government ending the practice of outsourcing prisons to corporations. Her damning assessment of the private prison industry on behalf of Obama’s Justice Department will serve as factual evidence for state-level political activists seeking to end the practice forever.
The school to prison pipeline which feeds minor drug offenders into private jails as a way to funnel tax money to the corporate oligarchs is a disgrace to American society. Like a bunch of perverse hoteliers, they get rich when they keep their “rooms” filled each night – by locking up millions of Americans, most of whom are minorities, entrenching broken families and continuing the cycle of poverty. President Obama’s historic move is a unmistakable signal that the way America handles its crime is about to change drastically.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition