Friday, August 19, 2016

De-Privatization of U.S. Federal Prisons


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

August 19, 2016


                Yesterday, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates posted a public notice:


Today, I sent a memo to the Acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons directing that, as each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population.  This is the first step in the process of reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons.  While an unexpected need may arise in the future, the goal of the Justice Department is to ensure consistency in safety, security and rehabilitation services by operating its own prison facilities.

Today’s memo reflects important steps that the bureau has already taken to reduce our reliance on private prisons, including  a decision three weeks ago to end a private prison contract for approximately 1,200 beds.  Taken together, these steps will reduce the private prison population by more than half from its peak in 2013 and puts the Department of Justice on a path to ensure that all federal inmates are ultimately housed at bureau facilities (with link to memo at


            Of course, most US prisoners are detained and US Customs and Border Protection has declared that it will continue to house immigrant detainees privately.  Deputy Attorney General Yates announced that the federal order, and the recent decarceration of federally convicted drug offenders, is intended to set an example for state and local prison and jail authorities (

            Yesterday, the stock price of Corrections Corporation of America fell by 35%, and of the Geo Group by 40%, a fear that other prison, jail, and detention authorities at federal, state and local levels will follow suit (

            I have recently argued, once again, against for-profit privatization of services of public care and custody generally, as now also in private trusteeship of foster care and child support payments (“The Problem of Privatization Again:  Foster Care and Child Support,”, July 31).  Ms. Yates affirms that prisons become safer, better, even more efficiently managed when they are owned and managed by publicly accountable public servants.  I cannot help but believe that the Justice Department’s initiative is supported if not led by President Obama as a departing legacy.  Here’s hoping that the Justice Department’s de-privatization initiative sets a national political trend toward decarceration and de-privatization at all levels.  Love and peace, hal

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