The U.S. Department of Justice will phase out its contracted prisons, including the ones run by GEO Group, after a review of all its prisons run by contractors, according to the Washington Post.
While none of the Justice Department’s contracted federal prisons are in the northwest, the GEO Group — a publicly traded company — also runs several Department of Homeland Security detention centers, including the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
According to CNBC, both GEO Group’s and Corrections Corporation of America stocks took a hit upon the Department of Justice’s news.
The Washington Post reported that the announcement came after a review of the 14 contract prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc. and Management and Training Corporation. The review showed higher rates of assault on inmates and staff and more contraband than in the federal prisons run by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
According to the Justice Department’s memo, a decline in the prison population in the past three years due to changes in sentencing will allow the Bureau of Prisons to spend money that it had been spending for contractors on its prisons to improve prison safety and rehabilitation programs.
“[W]e can better allocate our resources to ensure that inmates are in the safest facilities and receiving the best rehabilitative services — services that increase their chances of becoming contributing members of their communities when they return from prison,” the department said in a memo released on Thursday.
Critics of the GEO Group’s Northwest Detention Center have targeted the conditions at the detention center — including food, medical care and commissary prices — accusing the company of attempting to maximize profits by minimizing costs.
The company runs dozens of detention centers nationwide, including facilities for the Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and prisons for states, as well as prisons internationally.
Several local groups released statements calling for the Department of Homeland Security to follow the Department of Justice’s lead on phasing out the use of private prisons. The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma is operated by GEO Group.
Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9):
“I applaud the Justice Department’s decision to end its use of private prisons. The recent Justice Department Inspector General findings highlights the safety and efficiency problems common in private contract facilities, and gave the Justice Department the information they needed to meaningfully reevaluate their longstanding use of private prisons. While the changes in our justice system will not take place overnight, this is a positive step forward.
“The Department of Homeland Security should follow the Department of Justice and begin to systematically end its contracts with private detention centers. It is now more clear than ever that for-profit companies have no place in operating prison facilities, and we must move detainees with pending immigration cases that pose no risk to society out on to community-based Alternatives to Detention (ATDs). For those who pose too great a risk to release, we should have clearly established baseline standards for immigration detention centers that are owned and operated by the government. My bill, the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, outlines acceptable standards and highlights the need for increased use of ATDs, as well as the elimination of the detention bed mandate.
“To truly reform our broken criminal justice system and ensure we are building a more just society, it will take more than the closure of these facilities. Today marks a small victory, but one that must be followed with aggressive actions elsewhere in the government — including by Congress.”
OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz:
“DOJ’s decision to end its use of private prisons is good news for many who are incarcerated in substandard and inhumane conditions. This is an important victory for community activists, inmates and their families who have raised concerns over treatment of prisoners in privately owned facilities. The announcement, however, is also notable in that the Department of Homeland Security has not followed suit on the matter of privately-operated prisons being used for immigrant detention. If for-profit prisons are inadequate for the Department of Justice, they are also inadequate for the Department of Homeland Security. We call on the Homeland Security Department to follow the Justice Department’s lead and end its use of private prison contractors to detain immigrants and refugees. Every person, including those in government custody and regardless of their immigration status, must be treated with due process and dignity. Profit should not be a motive for denying any person’s freedom and human rights.”