The Corrections Corporation of America’s contract to run the nation’s largest family detention center is lengthened for five years despite increasing criticism of private prisons. The Justice Department’s decision to phase them out doesn’t apply to Department of Homeland Security, which also is reviewing the issue.
Several House Republicans write the Justice Department on the industry’s behalf protesting move to end their contracts. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and others contend the move would “undermine the effectiveness of … rehabilitation programs.”
State dropped private facilities three years ago after female inmates were being abused at one of them, but corrections facilities are crowded because of a 13 percent rise in inmates since 2013. State Rep. Brent Yonts warns officials to be careful returning to private operators, but says “we have to relieve … pressure” on local jails.
Mississippi private prison closure could be the beginning of a trend. Credit ratings for private facilities are being downgraded. Small reduction in national prisoner total has some private facilities competing against each other, says analyst Matt Fabian.
The Walnut Grove Correctional Facility housed 1,260 inmates and had been operating under a federal consent decree for four years. Jody Owens of the Southern Poverty Law Center called it a “cesspool sponsored by Mississippians’ tax dollars.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson orders a review following the Justice Department decision to end private prison contracts. But an immigration official warns that there are few alternative locations now, adding that going private could cost taxpayers billions and take years to implement.