The Justice Department’s watchdog found in 2016 that private prisons are less safe than their federally maintained counterparts. Proponents of shuttering them also point to data that indicates rehabilitative services at private prisons are less effective and that private prisons aren’t substantially cheaper than government-controlled prisons.
That same year, the Justice Department sought to end the use of private prisons to house federal inmates, directing the Bureau of Prisons to wind down its use of the contracted for-profit facilities, a move then reversed by Trump’s first attorney general early in his administration.
Many Democrats have called for ending or not renewing the federal government’s contracts with private prison companies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released a detailed proposal on her plan to abolish private prisons, saying she would leverage federal public safety funding to extend the ban to the state and local levels.