Justice Department to end use of private prisons

Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, pictured in this 2015 file photo, announced the U.S. Justice Department will phase out the use of private prisons after concluding the facilities are less safe and provide few economic advantages. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) — The U.S. Justice Department announced it will phase out the use of private prisons after concluding the facilities are less safe and provide few economic advantages over federally run institutions.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates directed officials to either decline to renew contracts with private prison contractors or “substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population.”

“They 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,” she said.

Last week, the Justice Department’s inspector general released a scathing report┬áthat concluded private prison operations “incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable [federal Bureau of Prisons] institutions.” Investigators found contract prisons had a higher rate of assaults, a higher number of contraband cell phones and numerous safety and security deficiencies.

The use of privately operated correctional institutes for federal prisoners began about a decade ago, as the inmate population boomed. In its peak, the bureau housed some 15 percent of its population, or about 30,000 inmates, in privately operated prisons.

After changes to sentencing guidelines and other initiatives, the inmate population is declining. Today, there are about 195,000 inmates in both government-run and private federal prisons, down from a peak of 220,000.

“This decline in the prison population means that we can better allocate our resources to ensure that inmates are in the safest facilities and receiving the best rehabilitative services — services that increase their chances of becoming contributing members of their communities when they return from prison,” Yates said.

Companies that will be affected by the closures said comparing federally run prisons to private ones is “comparing apples and oranges.” Scott Marquardt, president of Management and Training Corporation, told The Washington Post he generally disputes the inspector general’s report that found fault in private operations.

“Any casual reader would come to the conclusion that contract prisons are not as safe as BOP prisons,” Marquardt said. “The conclusion is wrong and is not supported by the work done by the [Office of the Inspector General].”


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