The US Department of Justice has said it will end the use of private prisons to detain federal inmates. The practice has been criticized for not being efficient, and for maximizing profits at inmates' expense.
In an #link:https://www.justice.gov/opa/blog/phasing-out-our-use-private-prisons internal memo that was made public# on Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the Department of Justice would begin to reverse the process of privatization for some US prisons.
The practice has become increasingly controversial, proving more problematic but no less expensive than the use of state-run correctional facilities.
"They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs and resources; they do not save substantially on costs," Yates wrote, also citing a report that said private prisons were more dangerous than those in public hands.
The decision affects some 22,000 people - about 11 percent of the federal prison population - housed in about 13 privately-run prisons.
"As each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population," said Yates.
Three companies run the prisons in question: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group and Management and Training Corporation.
Fall in share prices
Shares in CCA and GEO Group plunged sharply on the news, both down by nearly 39 percent within hours.
News of the policy shift was welcomed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate in 2016, who also questioned the morality of private jails.
"Due in large part to private prisons, incarceration has been a source of major profits to private corporations," Sanders said in a statement. "We have got to end the private prison racket in America as quickly as possible."
In June, the magazine Mother Jones published the results of an investigation that saw an undercover reporter working at a CCA-run prison in Louisiana. The report exposed widespread violence among prisoners, as well as poor medical and mental care.
In recent seasons, the popular Netflix drama "Orange is the New Black," has painted an unflattering portrait of a fictional private prison company that aims to increase profits at the expense of prisoners' conditions and human rights.
rc/jil (AFP, Reuters)