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It’s About Time – Federal Government to End Use of For-Profit Prison Operators

19 August 2016
PSI affiliate AFSCME applauds the Justice Department’s decision to end the use of private, for-profit firms to run America’s federal prisons.

by Clyde Weiss

It’s a judgment that rests on principles we have long asserted – not only that the cost-savings promised by these firms are illusory but that they jeopardize the safety of prisoners and the corrections employees who work in these facilities.

The announcement, by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, was made in a memo reported this morning by the Washington Post. Yates wrote that – compared to facilities operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons – privately run prisons “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.”

The Inspector General’s report, released last week, states that, “in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP [Bureau of Prison] institutions,” and that, “in recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer”.

For-profit prisons “had more frequent incidents of contraband finds, assaults, uses of force, lockdowns, guilty findings on inmate discipline charges, and selected categories of grievances,” the report added.

Privately run federal prisons housed approximately 22,660 federal inmates (12 percent of the total inmate population), the report stated. Three for-profit firms operate these facilities: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); the GEO Group, Inc.; and Management and Training Corporation (MTC).

“Whether at the federal or state and local level, private prison operations have long been a stain on our nation’s criminal justice system,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “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.”

AFSCME Corrections United, which represents approximately 62,000 corrections officers and 23,000 corrections employees, has long advocated ending the use of private prison operators in federal, state and local facilities. We have written extensively on the history and shortcomings of outsourcing, issued a report on how private prison operators profit from campaign contributions, and revealed how backroom deals enrich private prison operators at taxpayers’ expense. We’ve also debunked the empty promises of private prison operators.

Now that the federal government has come to the same conclusions that we have, it is our hope that state lawmakers will follow suit and end their contracts with private prison operators. Private prison companies put profits over the best interests of the citizens whose taxes pay for these critical public services.

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