Even though the federal prison population is falling, the Justice Department says private prisons are still necessary, reports the Washington Post.
Last August, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would begin to phase out the use of private prisons. Yates cited sentencing reforms and other measures that had reduced the federal prison population. Officials in the Justice Department even pointed to a recent White House budget proposal which showed a 14 percent drop in the federal prison population since 2013. If the prison population has dropped since 2013, why has Attorney General Sessions reversed the DOJ's memo phasing out private prisons?
David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, said that of the decision, "the embrace of private prisons was a purely ideological decision unconnected to any actual need.”Fathi said the Justice Department officials knew there would be an increase in the prisoner population.
"The fact that they are simultaneously acknowledging that the federal prison population is falling and saying that they need private prisons to accommodate future needs seems to me can only be explained by a plan to radically increase the federal prison population,” Fathi said. “Otherwise, those two things are just irreconcilable.”
Five private prisons in Texas will lose their contracts following the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement to phase out the use of private prisons, according to The Texas Tribune.
The announcement came after the inspector general of the DOJ recently concluded in a report that federal prisons operated by private companies have greater issues with contraband and inmate discipline than those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The office noted that "In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer."
Multiple incidents in Texas were among those driving the DOJ decision.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, the Reeves County Detention Complex, also known as the world’s largest for-profit prison, has “minimal oversight, overcharged the federal government by $2.1 million, arbitrarily punishes protesting inmates and suffers from severe understaffing.”
Reeves County Detention Complex is run by private prison corporation, the GEO Group, and holds almost 4,000 mostly undocumented federal prisoners who are serving time for federal drug and immigration-related offenses.
The report found that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had asked GEO Group to eliminate minimum staffing requirements for correctional officers, medical care providers and other personnel—a move that saved the Bureau nearly $10 million. “BOP officials told us they removed these staffing requirements to achieve cost savings and grant the contractor flexibility and discretion to manage the staffing of the facility,” the report states.