The Department of Justice has just released a memo outlining their plan to reduce, and ultimately discontinue, the use of privately operated prisons.
In the memo, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that she will be directing the Bureau of Prisons to “decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope” when contracts with these private prisons came up for renewal, ABC News reports. Those contracts will all come up for renewal within the next five years.
According to ABC News, a report released by the DOJ’s inspector general found that contract prisons had “more safety and security incidents per capita” than government-run prisons.
Yates said that 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,” The Washington Post reports.
According to ABC News, the DOJ’s report showed higher per person rates of “contraband finds, assaults, uses of force, lockdowns, guilty findings on inmate discipline charges, and selected categories of grievances” in these privately operated prisons. Incidents in these facilities could turn deadly—at a prison in Mississippi, a correctional officer was killed during an inmate riot over bad food and medical care, the Post reports.
Several people working for private prison corporations gave statements to the Post saying they were disappointed with the new rule. But human rights advocates were excited for the change, even if it only affects about 22,000 prisoners out of more than 2 million in the U.S. This plan will only affect privately run federal prisons, not state prisons, although some states may follow the federal lead and eventually eliminate the use of private prisons as well.
“There’s a practical impact, and then a symbolic impact,” Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, told the Post. “I think it’s part of the evolving climate on criminal justice reform.”
Yates stated, “Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities. For all these reasons, I am eager to enlist your help in beginning the process of reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons.”