The U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that it will phase out federal contracts with private prison operators is a tribute to independent journalism, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, writes in the Washington Post. She says that journalist Seth Freed Wessler reported in her magazine about “dozens of inmates … dying unnecessarily in federal private prisons.” The articles were based partly on open-records lawsuits, and interviews with former prison guards, whistleblowers in the Bureau of Prisons and the families of former inmates.
This month, the DOJ Inspector General confirmed reports by Wessler and a separate investigation by Shane Bauer in Mother Jones magazine, finding private prisons significantly less safe, less secure and more costly than the Bureau of Prisons’ public prisons. Vanden Heuvel notes that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has pledged to phase out all federal use of private prisons. Vanden Heuvel says private prison firms will mobilize to defend their contracts.