The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it will phase out the use of private prisons that house federal inmates.
A memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announcing the decision says privately run prisons “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.”
Currently, there are 13 private prison facilities being used by the federal Bureau of Prisons to hold about 20,000 inmates, according to the Washington Post.
“This is an important and groundbreaking decision,” David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said in a statement. “With its announcement today, the Justice Department has made clear that the end of the Bureau of Prisons’ two-decade experiment with private prisons is finally in sight. The ACLU applauds today’s decision and calls on other agencies — both state and federal — to stop handing control of prisons to for-profit companies.”
The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is one immigrant advocacy group urging the Department of Homeland Security to follow suit and end its use of privately run immigration detention centers.
“As the DOJ announcement points out, decreasing the use of private prisons for inmates facing federal criminal charges is largely facilitated by a decrease of the prison population as a result of changes in sentencing guidelines for low-level drug offenses,” NIJC’s Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, the number of DHS immigration detention beds operated by private companies–whose occupants include asylum seekers fleeing violence and immigrants who still face deportation because of minor drug convictions–has increased by 62 percent since 2009,” she added. “President Obama and his successor must ensure that immigrants do not become capital that saves prison corporations from insolvency.”