Written by CUNY Baruch SSDP Chapter Leader Leland Radovanovic, This article originally appeared on The Odyssey Online.
On Thursday, August 18th, the Deputy Attorney of the Department of Justice, General Sally Yates, released a memo detailing their plan to roll back the use of private prisons. Through DOJ studies, they found that private prisons are not kept to same standards of the bureau’s prisons. The lack of safety measures, security, correctional services, rehabilitation programs, resources, and cost-savings led to their decision, says Yates.
According to the DOJ’s data, there are currently 30,000 inmates in federal private prisons and about 195,000 in all federal prisons. Yates says the prisons won’t close overnight. Their plan is to forgo renewing current contracts as they end and to amend others. They recently declined to renew a contract three weeks ago for 1,200 beds. A soon-to-end contract will be reduced from a maximum of 10,800 beds to 3,600. Three of more contracted prisons will end over the next year. By this time next year the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), under the DOJ, estimates a population decrease to 14,500.
While it comes as a victory for many fighting to end mass incarceration, it feels like a carrot dangling. The stick? There are many. This doesn’t affect any private state prisons, where the vast majority of private prisons reside. In fact, there are only 13 federal prisons this falls under, all owned by Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation. According to a report by the Office of the Inspector General, these prisons were “primarily low security, criminal alien adult males with 90 months or less remaining to serve their sentences.” As the Washington Post points out, this won’t touch Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) nor US Marshals Service detainee either. Yates notes in her memo, ” As you know, the Bureau also maintains contracts with private companies to operate hundreds of community-based Residential Reentry Centers, or “halfway houses,” across the country. These facilities provide short-term transitional housing and community-based reentry services such as employment assistance.” This is important.