The Department of Justice has announced that it will immediately begin to reduce, and ultimately end, its use of private prisons. A memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates explained that private prisons were initially intended to ease overcrowding, but incarceration rates have been declining. More important, they found that private prisons weren't keeping people safe, reducing costs, or any of the other extolled benefits.
The DOJ said the rise of the industrial prison complex was because, basically, more people were being incarcerated than the government could hold, so they outsourced the job.:
The federal prison population increased by almost 800 percent between 1980 and 2013, often at a far faster rate than the Bureau of Prisons could accommodate in their own facilities. In an effort to manage the rising prison population, about a decade ago, the bureau began contracting with privately operated correctional institutions to confine some federal inmates. By 2013, as both the federal prison population and the proportion of federal prisoners in private facilities reached their peak, the bureau was housing approximately 15 percent of its population, or nearly 30,000 inmates, in privately operated prisons.
The memo stated that the federal prison population has decreased from nearly 220,000 inmates in 2013 to fewer than 195,000 inmates today. "In part, this is due to several significant efforts to recalibrate federal sentencing policy, including the retroactive application of revised drug sentencing guidelines, new charging policies for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, and the Administration's ongoing clemency initiative."
Clemency is the process by which the president can commute or reduce a prisoner's sentence, and here is a good place to note that on August 3, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 214 people serving federal sentences — the most commutations issued by a president in a single day since at least 1900.
According to the DOJ's research, the very functions fundamental to the prison system — reducing recidivism and improving public safety — were hard to replicate in private facilities.:
Time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities. They 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 lnspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.
The way the phase out will work is as each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau will either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope. Because of actions already in place, the total private prison population will be down to less than 14,200 inmates by May 1, 2017.