BREAKING: Justice Department Sets Precedent For Ending Private Prisons

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Today, the Department of Justice announced that it will begin to phase out federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with private prisons, which make up approximately 15% of revenues for prison companies GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. The move will impact those incarcerated in Criminal Alien Requirement prisons, where some of the worst recent prison abuses have taken place.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome move that has shaken the perverse notion of profiteering from imprisonment,” said Daniel Carrillo, Executive Director of Enlace, convener of the National Prison Divestment Campaign. “The Prison Divestment movement has pushed investors to realize that profit extracted from suffering is morally and financially a dead-end strategy. Financial backers like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are increasingly being called out for their role in investing in and lending to private prisons. The 40% drop in stock price that Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have seen today is the beginning of the end of prison profiteering.”

Black, immigrant, and LGBT communities are pushing back against private prison corporations who now profit not only from prisons, but also immigrant detention and an expansive array of re-entry services, addiction treatment, rehabilitation services, and electronic monitoring. Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration commented that, “We are more than happy with this development, but we are a long way from addressing the 2 million people in prison and the ever growing presence of police in neighborhoods where basic survival needs are not being met.”

Advocates applauding this step towards ending private prisons are turning their sights to the unaddressed sections of the private prison industry along with the largely public prison and policing system. When implemented, the move by the Justice Department will create a precedent for ending for-profit incarceration, but private prison corporations contracts with Immigration Customs and Enforcement, the US Marshall Service, and by states and local governments are still barriers to abolition.

“Stopping the profiting from incarceration is an important step,” said Jamie Trinkle, Prison Divestment campaign coordinator, “building strong communities will require shifting funds away from a private and public criminal justice system that has the highest rate of caging and policing in the world, and investing resources into building the high quality education, healthcare, and housing programs our communities need to thrive.”

The Prison Divestment Campaign was convened by Enlace in 2011 in response to the role that private prisons play in the expansion of criminalization and incarceration of immigrants and people of color in the United States. The campaign has over 200 endorsers who represent intersecting immigrant, Black, LGBT, labor communities.

The DOJ memo can be read here.

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