Should the Federal Bureau of Prisons Phase Out Contracted Prisons?

Source: Austill Stuart, Reason Foundation, March 2017

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently pushed the debate over private prisons back into the spotlight with a February 21, 2017 memorandum rescinding a Department of Justice memorandum that had been issued in August 2016 calling for the eventual end of
using private prisons within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The August 2016 memo, which followed a report that had been released by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (OIG) on improving the monitoring of private prisons, included significant space dedicated to comparing various safety and security metrics between BOP operated prisons and their private prison counterparts within the BOP system. … Given Attorney General Sessions’ memo and the renewed debate over private prisons that will likely follow, it is important to get beyond conflicting memos and take a closer look at what the August 2016 Inspector General report did, and did not, conclude about private prisons. …

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Obama’s DOJ Says It One More Time: Private Prisons Aren’t Working
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, December 21, 2016

In what may be the Obama administration’s parting shot on private prisons, the Justice Department inspector general found in an audit released yesterday that yet another privately run facility is in crisis, suffering from inadequate medical care, persistent understaffing, and weak federal oversight. The audit comes after Obama’s DOJ ordered the Bureau of Prisons to begin closing all of its privately run facilities this summer, and after President-elect Donald Trump has insisted, against mounds of evidence to the contrary, that private prisons “work a lot better.”

The US government is already quietly backing out of its promise to phase out private prisons
Source: Hannah Kozlowska, Quartz, November 27, 2016

Critics have long denounced private prisons in the US as unsafe, inefficient and at times, inhumane. Those critics, who include inmates and activists, seemed to find a powerful ally earlier this year when the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its use of private prisons for federal prisoners. This wouldn’t mean the end of privately-run incarceration facilities (they’re also used by immigration authorities and states), but it was seen as a step forward. Except, that when the first contracts came up for re-negotiation this fall, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) quietly decided to renew them anyway. That decision, along with the election of Donald Trump, mean that the US is unlikely to see the use of private prison operators diminish any time soon. Last week, CoreCivic (CCA), one of the country’s two largest prison operators, announced that the BOP had renewed its contract for two years to run the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. According to the company, the new agreement was barely changed, with only an 8% reduction in inmate beds. This despite an August memo from the deputy attorney general Sally Yates that stated that the Department of Justice, which oversees BOP, would either nix the contracts, or “substantially” reduce them when they came up for renewal. … She pointed out that the BOP extended its contract with GEO Group, the other leading prison company in the US in September for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, also in Georgia. As with the McRae facility, the company presents the reduction of the contract as small, and the BOP presented the cut as larger in an email to Quartz, using different numbers from the agreement. … Separately, the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has activists worried that the steps taken by the Obama administration to reduce the population of inmates in private prisons will be quickly rolled back. Trump has said outright that he supports prison privatization, and his plans for cracking down on illegal immigration would be a boon for prison operators: the stock prices of CoreCivic and the GEO Group soared following his election. Meanwhile, his nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions—a harsh critic of criminal justice reform efforts—to serve as attorney general certainly won’t help. In October, Geo Group hired two former aides to Sessions to lobby in favor of outsourcing federal corrections to the private prison industry. …


Geo faces lawsuits following Justice Department’s plan to end private-prison management
Source: Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun-Sentinel, October 11, 2016

Several shareholder lawsuits have been filed against private prison operator The Geo Group in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, alleging violations of securities laws. A lawsuit on behalf of investors who purchased stock between March 1, 2012, and Aug. 17, was announced Monday by The Law Offices of Vincent Wong in New York. This joins others filed earlier this year: In September, a similar lawsuit was filed in Florida against Geo by the Shareholders Foundation in San Diego. And in August, similar lawsuits were filed on behalf of shareholder John J. Mulvaney by Pomerantz LLP, a national law firm that has an office in Weston. There also are separate lawsuits by the New York-based Rosen Law Firm and Los Angeles-based Lundin Law PC. … The lawsuits allege that Geo made false or misleading statements and failed to disclose that Geo’s prisons lacked adequate safety and security standards and were less efficient than those operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They also claim Geo failed to disclose that the U.S. Department of Justice was unlikely to renew or extend its contracts with Geo. …

CCA Plans Layoffs and CEO Pay Cuts As Its Stock Keeps Dropping
Source: Becca Andrews, Mother Jones, September 27, 2016

The Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s second largest private prison company, announced today that it will eliminate 50 to 55 full-time positions—approximately 12 percent of the corporate workforce—at its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. As part of a new effort to restructure the company and reduce costs, CEO Damon Hininger will also forfeit stock options and compensation worth $3.7 million. … Public opinion also seems to be turning against for-profit prisons. In last night’s debate, Hillary Clinton said, “I’m glad that we’re ending private prisons in the federal system. I want to see them ended in the state system. You shouldn’t have a profit motivation to fill prison cells with young Americans.” CCA’s shakeup is part of a cost reduction plan that aims to save $9 million in expenses in 2017. In its statement, the company noted that some of the risks and uncertainties it currently faces include changes to DOJ and DHS’s prison policies as well as changes in “the public acceptance of our services.”

With Scrutiny of Private Prisons Mounting, CCA Announces Staff Cuts At Its Nashville Headquarters
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, September 27, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America says it’s laying off 12 percent of the workforce in its Nashville headquarters — an announcement that comes as scrutiny of private prison operators is mounting. The company said in a statement released Tuesday that it will eliminate 50 to 55 jobs from within its corporate ranks. The announcement was made after the close of trading on Wall Street. CCA shares have fallen by half since August. The company is the biggest private prison operator in the United States. … President Obama’s administration has already cut some ties at the federal level. The Department of Justice this summer announced plans to end use of private prisons, and the Department of Homeland Security is studying the possibility. Private prisons have always been controversial, but criticism has grown more fierce since the liberal magazine Mother Jones sent a reporter undercover at a CCA prison in Louisiana.

CCA looks to re-entry program growth as federal contracts shrink
Source: Jamie McGee, Tennessean, September 21, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America is looking to its re-entry programs for growth as the Nashville-based private prison operator seeks to recover from tumbling stock prices and shrinking federal government contracts. CEO Damon Hininger, speaking at an event Wednesday that featured publicly traded companies in Nashville, pointed to revenue opportunities in its growing re-entry division. In three years, the company has begun operating 25 re-entry facilities in four states. … CCA shares have plummeted 42 percent since the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement Aug. 18 that private prison operators would be phased out. A separate report by the Office of the Inspector General, also released in August, pointed to higher incident rates of safety and security issues in private prisons. … CCA’s re-entry homes, which include 100 to 400 beds, are designed to host inmates nearing the end of their sentences to help them have successful transitions into normal life, Hininger said. CCA entered the re-entry segment three years ago when it bought San Diego-based Correctional Alternatives in a $36 million deal. In 2015, CCA added Oklahoma-based halfway house operator Avalon Correctional Services in a $158 million acquisition. In addition to re-entry programs, Hininger said he expects the company to expand its vocation programs within its current facilities as reducing recidivism rates becomes a larger focus nationally. …

WILL CLOSING PRIVATE FEDERAL PRISONS MEAN MORE MONEY IN STATE POLITICS?
Source: Maya Gold, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, September 19, 2016

On August 18, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced it would end its use of private prisons. Eleven days later, Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson announced a review to determine whether his agency should do the same for privately-owned immigration detention centers. The moves arrived on the heels of a report from the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, which concluded that privately owned facilities are less safe and less effective than their government-run counterparts. The DOJ’s newly announced policy aims to eventually end contracts held by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that currently account for the incarceration of 12 percent of federal inmates. This decision is a surprising one, considering that private prison companies such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group Inc. (GEO) – which together control 75 percent of the for-profit prison market and take in a combined $3.2 billion of annual revenue – have poured an enormous amount of time and money into influencing the political system. The industry has been heralded as “the biggest lobby no one is talking about,” and the two companies have spent $14.6 million on federal lobbying efforts from 2010 to 2015. … While individual stories about CCA and GEO’s state presence abound, little research has been done on their nationwide efforts to influence politics and policy. A CREW investigation into the two companies’ state-level lobbying and political contributions finds that CCA and GEO have invested in 39 states across the country, donating millions of dollars to political campaigns and hiring dozens of lobbyists. …

The Private Prison Industry’s New Criminal Justice Ventures
Source: George Joseph, CityLab, September 14, 2016

But beyond these traditional criminal justice enterprises, private prison companies have been diversifying their holdings portfolios to capture emerging areas of the criminal justice market. Since 2005, GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have poured over $2.23 billion into acquiring smaller companies that cater to different parts of the criminal justice system, such as GPS ankle-unit monitoring services, residential re-entry centers (commonly known as “halfway houses”), and prison health care services, according to a new report from the progressive advocacy group In The Public Interest. …

… From 2013 to 2016, the Corrections Corporation of America put down $230 million for residential re-entry center acquisitions. Similarly, from 2011 to 2015, GEO Group spent more than $450 million on electronic monitoring and alcohol monitoring-related acquisitions. In conversations with investors, private prison companies have been quite clear that this diversification seeks to meet the demands of the changing political climate. As Ann Schlarb, a senior vice president of GEO Group, explained at the company’s latest earnings call in April (transcript via Seeking Alpha), the company is “enthusiastic” about expanding its offender rehabilitation services, which they believe is “in line with current criminal justice reform discussions.” As of the first quarter of 2016, GEO Group’s re-entry division manages 21 halfway houses with more than 3,000 total beds, 63 day-reporting centers serving 4,000 participants, 12 residential youth-service facilities with approximately 1,300 total beds, and seven non-residential programs with 1,200 participants. Another GEO group division monitors around 139,000 offenders under community supervision, including more than 100,000 using GPS, radio-frequency, and alcohol-monitoring devices.

Closure of private prisons could hit Texas in pocketbook
Source: Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle, September 5, 2016

Thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lucrative government contracts could be in jeopardy in Texas with the Department of Justice’s decision to phase out the use of privately run prisons. Of the 14 private prisons facing the loss of federal contracts, five are in Texas – the most of any state. The impact will be felt not only in prison yards but also in the tax rolls and cash registers of small towns and local communities. … Wiseman said she fears that nearly all the jobs at the prison will be lost when the company’s federal contract expires in March. … The five facilities in Texas are centered in West Texas. The facilities include two side-by-side facilities at the Reeves County Detention Complex in Pecos, west of Midland; the Big Spring Correctional Facility in Howard County; Eden Detention Center in Concho County; and the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Garza County near Lubbock. …

Will states follow DOJ’s private prison move? Some are ahead of the feds.
Source: Joe Davidson, Washington Post, August 26, 2016

Uncle Sam is an influential guy. When he speaks, states listen. If history is a guide, the Justice Department’s decision to phase out private prisons could have an impact well beyond federal Bureau of Prison facilities. Already, some states are ahead of the federal government in closing for-profit correctional locations. The move by the Justice Department could encourage more of that. … Nicole D. Porter, advocacy director of the Sentencing Project, which, like the ACLU, opposes private prisons, provided these examples of states moving away from private facilities:

  • Colorado officials announced plans in June to close the private Kit Carson Correctional Center.
  • Mississippi officials said they will close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that the District would resume operation of the Correctional Treatment Facility when a contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) expires next year.
  • Kentucky announced the closing of its last of three facilities in 2013. In June, however, the state said it was considering reopening two private facilities because of overcrowding.
  • Texas closed two private prisons in 2013.
  • Idaho said in February it would no longer send prisoners to a private facility in Colorado.

This quote from America’s largest private prison company shows how much the industry fears criminal justice reform
Source: Michelle Mark, Business Insider, August 25, 2016

This quote, from a 2005 annual CCA report found in the Securities and Exchange Commission archives, reemerged in a New Yorker article on Wednesday. The quote appears to validate claims regarding the private prison industry’s concern with reform (emphasis ours):

“Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. “Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

The largest chapter of the Texas prison guard union supports closing private prisonsSource: Casey Tolan, Fusion, August 25, 2016

The Texas prison system should close all its private prisons and give more nonviolent inmates parole and out-of-prison supervision, the president of the largest chapter of the state prison guard union said this week. Lance Lowry, the President of the Huntsville AFSCME Texas Correctional Employees chapter, who’s been a correctional officer in the state for more than 20 years, argued in a blog post yesterday that closing private prisons is necessary with the state prison system facing $250 million in budget cuts. There are currently 10,464 offenders in the state’s 15 private prisons and jails, or about 7% of the state’s total prison population, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. About half of Texas’ prison population was convicted of nonviolent crimes. Lowry, who represents 1,500 guards, said the state should shift low-level, nonviolent inmates to parole, probation, or electronic monitoring where they live at home. … The union’s advocacy for reducing incarceration comes amid wider scrutiny of private prisons. The federal Department of Justice announced last week that it would phase out the private prisons it had contracted, a decision that does not affect state private prisons. Private prison guards in Texas have a 90% staff turnover rate, compared to a 24% turnover rate among public prison guards, a 2008 State Senate report found. Public officers are older and more experienced, Lowry said. …

The Tricky Issue of Private Prisons
Source: Charles Chieppo, Governing, August 25, 2016

The reality is that most of the nation’s 2.2 million prisoners serve their sentences not in the federal system but in state and local prisons and jails. And prisons operated by for-profit companies account for about 6 percent of state inmates, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Beyond prisons, there are a number of reasons why privatization can be an appealing option for state and local governments. The pay for success approach can shift risk away from taxpayers by conditioning a contractor’s payment on the achievement of various metrics. …

Will America Finally Stop Privatizing Everything?
Source: David Dayen, New Republic, August 24, 2016

Thirteen contracts may seem like too small a disruption to threaten the entire private corrections industry and its $629 million in annual profits. But DOJ’s repudiation has already spurred demands to close other privatized facilities. And the logic of the decision underscores the core truism of privatization, one that citizens are increasingly finding unconscionable: The only way to manage these public operations and skim a profit off the top is to do it deficiently. … It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Private companies win contracts to manage federal prisons by undercutting the Bureau of Prisons’ operational costs. Unlike the government, private prison companies must also take their profit margins out of their budgets. The only way to make that work is to massively drop labor costs, corresponding to a severe degradation of the quality of prison management. The examples of this are legion. Wages for private prisons are over 20 percent lower than their public counterparts, and the penitentiaries are routinely short-staffed. Equipment requisitions are insufficient. Maintenance is routinely deferred. In one CCA prison in Idaho, corrections officers let the gangs help them run the facility. That reflects the problem with privatization as a whole. Private companies must carry out a government function—be it water, parking meters, mass transit, or K-12 schools—at a lower cost than the government can provide it, while taking their profit off the top. Time and again, the results reveal that to be impossible, at least if you want to provide the same quality of service. Yet we keep privatizing. …

Private Prison Companies Are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration
Source: Joshua Holland, The Nation, August 23, 2016

Last Thursday, private prison stocks dropped like a rock when the Department of Justice announced that it would be phasing out its use of for-profit detention facilities. If you were an investor who had no ethical qualms about profiting from an industry that’s been accused of perpetrating a number of human rights abuses, it would have been a good time to buy. It turns out that reports of the industry’s imminent death have been greatly exaggerated. …“These companies know what they’re doing,” says Christopher Petrella, a lecturer at Bates College who studies the industry. “They’re agile, they follow market trends, and they know where the growth is.” According to Petrella, two of the biggest companies – GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – “have really pivoted to diversify their services away from traditional incarceration. They’ve both invested heavily in the past five or six years in prisoner rehabilitation services, mental health centers, residential re-entry programs and monitoring technologies for supervised release.” These are all areas that are expected to grow as efforts to reduce the prison population gain traction. Until eight or nine years ago, these companies could have relied on partisan gridlock to maintain the status quo, but as conservatives have come to embrace the issue, their future as jailers has started to look less bright. … According to the watchdog group In the Public Interest, private companies are already deeply embedded in all kinds of carceral services other than locking people up. They run many prisons’ commissaries, provide healthcare and food services, transport prisoners between institutions, provide financial services and phone and video calls home – almost always with usurious fees – test for drugs and provide substance abuse therapy for those who fail, and on and on. …

The DOJ’s Decision To Stop Using Private Prisons Is Just The First Step
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, August 23, 2016

Beyond that, state and local governments should end their contracts with private prison companies for facility operation, as well as the many services CCA and GEO Group have branched out to in recent years, like reentry services, substance abuse treatment, and electronic monitoring. This would add to the dwindling resources governments have to address public safety, since every taxpayer dollar that goes to private prison company profits is a dollar not being spent on addressing mass incarceration. The DOJ’s decision has put a more just and humane criminal justice system on the horizon. Now, we have the momentum, not the companies that profit from mass incarceration.

Will GEO Group And Corrections Corp. Survive?
Source: Daniel Jones, Seeking Alpha, August 23, 2016

Shares of GEO Group (NYSE:GEO) and Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE:CXW) have been extremely volatile after news broke that the Bureau of Prisons would be winding down most, if not all, of its contracts with prison operators. After seeing shares fall on the day of the news by 39.5% and 35.5%, respectively, the stock of both companies have rebounded, with GEO soaring 26.2% while Corrections has seen an uptick of 10.2%. In what follows, I will dig into these movements and see if there is any reason for said moves. … After digging into the data, I found something that was, initially, very scary had I been a shareholder in either enterprise. Last year, GEO received about 44.9% of its revenue from federal contracts, while Corrections received around 51% of its from similar contracts. When seeing these numbers, it’s tempting to think that it’s game over for both companies but after looking into the data deeper, you arrive at a more positive conclusion. Take, for instance, the case of GEO. In 2015, the company generated about $1.24 billion (or 67.3%) of its sales from its U.S. Corrections and Detention segment. Meanwhile, the bulk of the rest of its sales ($341 million) came from its GEO Care segment, which provides services like halfway houses and non-residential services to adult and juvenile offenders. However, GEO does generate revenue from its International segment ($155 million) and it also gets sales from the construction of facilities too. …

Editorial: First Step in Shutting Private Prisons
Source: New York Times, August 22, 2016

While privately run detention facilities were once seen as a fiscally responsible alternative, there’s now growing acknowledgment that they are a national shame. They are notoriously violent and dysfunctional, operating even more opaquely than state-run facilities, while paying miserable wages. The Justice Department inspector general reported this month that private prisons had higher rates of assaults and contraband than regular ones. Immigrants convicted of federal crimes have been disproportionately routed to private detention centers, which run bare-bones operations, under the shortsighted theory that it’s futile to invest in rehabilitation or job training for them because most get deported when they serve out their sentence and become someone else’s problem. … In the short run, the Justice Department’s decision will affect a relatively small segment of people held in private prisons. Most of the companies’ business involves holding prisoners in state custody and those detained for immigration infractions. This development should prompt the Department of Homeland Security, which runs detention operations, as well as state officials, to follow the same path. …

The biggest problem with private prisons starts on Capitol Hill
Source: Michelle Mark, Business Insider, August 20, 2016

While such reports are no doubt disturbing, the most problematic aspect about private-prison companies may be their efforts on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country to lobby for laws that expand demand for their own services. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the country’s two largest private-prison companies, have contributed $10 million to candidates and pushed $25 million into lobbying efforts since 1989, a Washington Post report found last year. While the CCA declares on its website that it doesn’t lobby for policies that determine “the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention,” the Justice Policy Institute has documented several pieces of federal legislation the CCA lobbied on in recent years, including funding related to private prisons and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. … Private prison companies have been preparing for such a moment by shifting their focus to ICE facilities, many of which are already run by for-profit entities and house immigration detainees, according to Petrella. … In a statement to Business Insider, the CCA noted that the DOJ’s directive would affect only 7% of the company’s business, and it will instead be focusing on  “new, innovative opportunities we’ve been exploring in recent years in a proactive effort to meet their evolving needs.” …

Private prison operators shrug off U.S. policy shift
Source: St. Louis Today, August 19, 2016

Shares of the two largest operators of U.S. private prisons rebounded on Friday on bets that a move by the administration of President Barack Obama to phase out the use of some for-profit corrections facilities would not cascade across the country and decimate the industry. The rally picked up momentum after Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group Inc. executives told analysts the policy shift would not materially affect profits this year or dividends in the future. … CCA was up more than 10 percent in late afternoon trading on Friday after soaring as high as 20.7 percent earlier in the session. Geo Group Inc. gained more than 18 percent. …

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Justice Department Ending Use of Private Prisons
Source: AFSCME Press Release, August 18, 2016

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to end their use of private prisons: “Whether at the federal or state and local level, private prison operations have long been a stain on our nation’s criminal justice system. Compared to publically run correctional facilities, private prisons provide a fraction of the safety and rehabilitation our communities should expect. They have not kept us secure, nor have they delivered savings to the taxpayers – instead, corporate prisons have profited off of the suffering of our communities and have led the way to mass incarceration and the immoral detention of immigrant families in privately operated facilities that just this week were revealed in reports to be wasting taxpayer money. … Private prisons are a failed experiment. We whole-heartedly applaud the Justice Department’s decision to end their use and call on state and local governments, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, to follow the federal government’s lead on this decision.” …

Sanders, liberals press Obama to expand closure of private prisons
Source: Mike Lillis, The Hill, August 18, 2016

The Justice Department’s decision Thursday to end its use of private prisons means tens of thousands of federal inmates will eventually be shifted out of a system that’s been heavily criticized as ineffective, inefficient and dangerous.  But the broader consequences might come further down the road, as the move puts immediate pressure on states, local governments and even other agencies within the Obama administration to get out of the private-prison business. … Democrats have long attacked the Homeland Security Department’s use of privately run facilities, particularly the detention centers that have housed thousands of immigrant families seeking refuge from violence in Central American. And liberals like Leahy are using the DOJ’s policy change to press Obama to expand the private-prison ban across the administration, to include those centers and other facilities overseen by the DHS. … The domino effect described by Grijalva would impact many thousands more people who are detained by DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch.  Indeed, while the total federal prison population under DOJ is almost 195,000, only about 22,100, or 12 percent, are in privately run prisons, according to the agency. Under ICE’s oversight, there are more than 24,500 detainees in private facilities — almost 73 percent of the total population, a spokesperson said Thursday. The state numbers are even more significant. More than 91,000 state inmates were incarcerated in privately run facilities in 2014, according to the New York University’s Brennan Center, citing DOJ statistics.  The administration’s new guidelines don’t cover the ICE detainees or those in state and local prisons. And that, according to many liberal Democrats, is a mistake. …

Private Prison Corporations Lost Nearly 40% Of Their Value Today
Source: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, August 18, 2016

Late Thursday morning, the United States Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its contracts with private prison companies. The announcement followed an Inspector General report which found that federal private prisons “had more frequent incidents per capita of contraband finds, assaults, uses of force, lockdowns, guilty findings on inmate discipline charges, and selected categories of grievances” than government-run facilities. The report also named three companies, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Inc., and Management and Training Corporation, that will soon no longer do business with the Justice Department. The invisible hand responded to DOJ’s announcement with a brutal spanking …

DOJ to End Use of Private Prisons
Source: Donald Cohen, Capital and Main, August 18, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) just announced its plans to end its use of privately operated, for-profit prisons to incarcerate federal prisoners. This is HUGE news. The decision follows last week’s release of a DOJ report that concluded private prisons are both less safe and less effective than those run by the government. … This is a major setback for the private prison industry, which pulls in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in profits each year. The biggest companies in the industry, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, often cut corners, encourage mass incarceration, increase recidivism, exacerbate inequality and take tax dollars away from fixing our criminal justice system. In the wake of the news, CCA’s shares are already down 50 percent, while GEO Group’s are down by 35 percent. The DOJ’s decision is a testament to the long and tiring work of some of In the Public Interest’s closest allies, including Grassroots Leadership, Detention Watch, ACLU, AFL-CIO, AFSC, AFSCME, Prison Legal News, Enlace, Justice Strategies, SEIU, Teamsters, CWA, AFGE, PICO, the Sentencing Project, Brave New Films, NAACP and many more. …

Feds phasing private prisons out; Post first to report problems
Source: Pat Beall, Palm Beach Post, August 18, 2016

Echoing troubling and sometimes lethal practices first reported by The Palm Beach Post in its 2013 series, Private Prisons: Profits, Politics, Pain, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote in a memo that the privately managed prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources.”

U.S. to Phase Out Use of Private Prisons for Federal Inmates
Source: Charlie Savage, New York Times, August 18, 2016

In announcing the policy shift, the Justice Department cited that decline, as well as a critical recent report by the department’s independent inspector general about safety and security problems in private prisons. “Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own bureau facilities,” Sally Q. Yates, the deputy attorney general, wrote in a memo to the bureau. Such prisons, she said, “do not save substantially on costs,” and they provide fewer rehabilitative services, like educational programs and job training, that are “essential to reducing recidivism and improving public safety.” …

Feds End Use of Private Prisons, but Questions Remain
Source: Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, Atlantic, August 18, 2016

… While any reduction in the federal prison population will be welcomed by those released, their families, and by reform advocates, the majority of inmates reside in state or county facilities. Only one in eight federal inmates was in a private facility in 2015. Consistent review of and changes to federal and state sentencing guidelines, more humane pre-trial bargaining by prosecutors of low-level offenders, increased used of probation instead of jail time, and a more judicious application of bail practices would do far more to reduce the incarcerated population. Those actions would also mean real strides toward a less punitive penal system. …

Eliminating All the Prison Privateers
Source: Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest, August 18, 2016

The decision by the Justice Department to end its use of privately operated prison facilities is a long overdue reform and one that should also be adopted by the states. Yet the for-profit prison scandals are not limited to those involving companies such as Corrections Corporation of America that are in the business of managing entire correctional facilities. There is also now a widespread practice of contracting out specific functions at government-run prisons, often with disastrous results. Numerous states and localities have, for instance, handed over responsibility for feeding prisoners to large foodservice companies such as Aramark operating under lucrative contracts. … There was a time when much of the public was indifferent to prison conditions and cared little whether inmates were being food that was inedible. But now that there is much wider understanding of the problem of over-incarceration, we need to make sure that those still behind bars are treated with dignity and not abused by privateers.

Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons
Source: Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, August 18, 2016

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” “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,” Yates wrote. … The 13 privately run facilities will not close overnight. Yates said the Justice Department would not terminate existing contracts but instead review those that come up for renewal. She said all of the contracts would come up for renewal over the next five years. …

Opinion: Private prisons are a public shame
Source: David M. Shapiro, Chicago Sun Times, August 17, 2016

Why have private prisons at all? That is the question to ask in the wake of a new U.S. Department of Justice report that has revealed elevated safety and security incidents at privatized federal prisons. The 80-page report by the DOJ’s inspector general confirms what has long been suspected: Private prisons are often less safe than publicly operated prisons. … From a human rights standpoint, privatized incarceration presents a serious threat. A private prison in Idaho was dubbed the “Gladiator School” due to extreme levels of violence. A private juvenile prison in Mississippi was once described by a federal judge as “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” Some of the safety concerns at private prisons may reflect the higher rate of staff turnover, which can result in inexperienced guards walking the tiers. After an infamous escape from an Arizona private prison in 2010, for example, the Arizona Department of Corrections reported that at the prison, staff were “green,” not proficient with weapons and had a rather dangerous habit: ignoring sounding alarms. While the for-profit prison industry claims that governments can save money through privatization, private prisons often fail to deliver demonstrable fiscal benefits and can even cost taxpayers more than publicly operated institutions. Numerous studies by researchers, state governments and federal agencies contradict the supposed economic benefits touted by industry supporters. … The DOJ inspector general’s report recommended improved monitoring and oversight of federal contract prisons. That’s the least DOJ should do. The more appropriate response would be to phase out private prisons and limit incarceration to publicly operated jails and prisons directly accountable to local, state and federal elected leaders. …

The solution to the problems created by prison privatization? More privatization.
Source: Beryl Lipton, MuckRock, August 16, 2016

Privatized prisons added another voice to their choir of skeptics last week, this one from within the Department of Justice itself. A new report from the Bureau of Prisons Inspector General emphasizes the need for a reformed approach to contract prison oversight. The agency compared the 14 facilities under contract with the BOP at the time of their review with 14 BOP-run facilities of comparable size. … The extent of their admonishments stopped short, however, due to the difficulty of conducting accurate comparisons between the two systems; the inability to measure costs and outcomes at private and public prisons alike, discussed in part in last month’s Private Prison Primer, plagues even the entity tasked with making such analyses. … For all the problems found in private prison settings, equivalent circumstances exist in our public facilities. In a way, private prisons are the part-and-parcel manifestation of a phenomenon that is pervasive throughout corrections: the privatization of goods and services. Each problem in prison, then, becomes fodder for more-specialized privatization efforts. …

A Damning Federal Report Just Confirmed Our Worst Fears About Private Prisons
Source: Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, August 12, 2016

Federal prisons run by private prison companies aren’t just less safe and less secure than than their publicly run counterparts. They’re also inadequately supervised by the federal Bureau of Prisons, which has outsourced the incarceration of 12 percent of its inmates to three giant for-profit prison companies, while allowing gaps in oversight that endangered inmates and put their rights at risk. That’s the takeaway from a damning new report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. The report, released Thursday, examined how the BOP monitored its contracts with three of the nation’s largest private prison companies: Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation. For $639 million, these corporations run the country’s 14 private federal prisons, incarcerating around 22,660 people as of December—mainly low-security immigrants serving short sentences. …

Private federal prisons — less safe, less secure
Source: Joe Davidson, Washington Post, August 12, 2016

Private prisons — unsafe and insecure. That’s the picture emerging from a Justice Department Office of the Inspector General’s report that adds to a growing effort to take the profit out of penitentiaries. The report’s central conclusion: “We found that, in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP (Bureau of Prisons) institutions and that the BOP needs to improve how it monitors contract prisons in several areas.” Those key areas are contraband, incident reports, lockdowns, inmate discipline, telephone monitoring, grievances, drug testing and sexual misconduct. … The private facilities held 12 percent of BOP’s prison population in December, almost 22,700 low-security immigrant adult males with 90 months or less on their sentences. Three companies have the contracts — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc. and Management and Training Corporation (MTC). In their responses included in the report, each of the three cited their largely homogeneous inmates as a significant factor in prison misconduct. … But no remedial action will remedy the basic conflict the profit motive provides when corporations are involved in decisions that directly affect the incarceration of individuals. Do private companies save money through understaffing? Do private companies have a profit motive to shortchange prison infirmaries? Do private companies have a financial interest in keeping prisoners incarcerated? There’s no suggestion that government-run facilities are free of problems. But at least making money isn’t the motivation. …

Damning Report Finds For-Profit Prisons Are More Dangerous
Source: Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post, August 11, 2016

Privately run federal prisons are more dangerous than those managed by the Bureau of Prisons and need more oversight, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s watchdog. These so-called “contract prisons” are largely low-security facilities, typically holding undocumented male immigrants convicted of federal crimes with less than 7.5 years left on their sentence. They hold more than 22,000 inmates, about 12 percent of the total federal prison population. They are run by three companies: Corrections Corporation of America; GEO Group, Inc.; and Management and Training Corporation. Privately run facilities “incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions,” according to the report, released Thursday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General. … Investigators visited three contract prisons for their report, and found that all had at least one safety or security deficiency. Two of the three prisons were improperly housing new inmates under very restrictive conditions until beds became available in general population, despite the fact that the prisoners had not committed any infractions that would justify their segregation. The BOP also did not properly check whether inmates received “basic medical services,” according to the report. The prisons subsequently corrected the problems, but the report still concluded the BOP needs to improve oversight “to ensure that federal inmates’ rights and needs are not placed at risk when they are housed in contract prisons.”