The private prison industry is lobbying against a U.S. Justice Department directive to end the use of their facilities, encouraging legislators to question the policy change and legally protesting one significant contract reduction, the Washington Post reports. Moves by the GEO Group and others show practical and political hurdles that stand in the way of the Bureau of Prisons actually ending its use of for-profit facilities to manage federal inmates. The industry says that the decision to do so was based on faulty research and that officials need private firms because of overcrowding in the federal prison system. “We think the private sector facilities did very well, that they were comparably secure, and in some important respects, they were better,” said George Zoley, chairman of GEO, which operates six facilities.
The industry, which generates billions of dollars in revenue, is a powerful force on Capitol Hill. Last month, six Republican representatives from Texas, California, and Georgia asked the Justice Department to “step back” from the directive until they provided Congress with more information. Separately, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee, wrote with two other Republicans that the DOJ plan would “undermine the effectiveness of the system’s rehabilitation programs.” There are 13 privately run facilities, housing more than 22,000 inmates, in the Bureau of Prisons system. It was unclear precisely how soon the contract prisons could be phased out. One of those 13 prisons in New Mexico has had its inmates moved out, and the population in the rest stood just above 21,600 on Friday.