Florida Record

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Florida urged to follow DOJ's footsteps in phasing out private prisons

By Kerry Goff | Oct 12, 2016

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department recently announced that it is ending its relationship with private prison companies, citing poor results in safety, services and affordability. The new inspector general's report found that contract facilities were inferior to government-run ones.

According to an investigation into private prisons, reported by an Aug. 27 My Palm Beach Post article, more contraband managed to get inside private prisons, including cell phones, tobacco and weapons. There were also more incidents of violence and greater problems with inmate discipline, as well as more frequent lockdowns, which are a sign of security problems.

“The review determined that the government does a better job than private vendors of providing services such as job training and education — key elements in reducing recidivism,” a Sept. 2 Tampa Bay Times article also said. “If privatizing corrections doesn't adequately protect inmates and staff, provides fewer rehabilitative services and doesn't save money, it's hard to find any public benefit to outsourcing.”

For once, the U.S. Justice Department is getting some support for its recommendations of rejecting privatization.

“It's fundamentally wrong to privatize this function of government,” an Aug. 31 Orlando Sentinel article said. “A handful of private companies have gained disproportionate power and influence in shaping criminal justice policy, often at odds with what's in the public interest. The state benefits when recidivism is low; the opposite is true for for-profit prisons. Their financial success is dependent on individuals being incarcerated and detained.”

The bottom line is that many Florida officials believe the state should follow the Justice Department’s lead in giving private prisons the boot.

“As The Post’s Pat Beall documented in a comprehensive series in 2013, private management of state, as well as federal, prisons has been a failure on many counts,” the Aug. 27 My Palm Beach Post article said. “Prisoners are at greater risk of assault. And frequently, private prison management doesn’t even fulfill its biggest promise: saving taxpayer dollars.”

The article also explained that Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates argues that privately managed federal prisons do not provide the same level of correctional services as government institutions, and the private prisons in Florida are just as guilty of these infractions.

“It is high time to rein in the rest of the system. It is abundantly clear that the goals of making a profit and providing a safe and secure environment — for prisoners and guards alike — are in irreconcilable conflict,” the Orlando Sentinel article said. “We wonder if this industry would even exist were it not for the huge payouts it makes to lobbyists and political campaigns.”

Of course, the general consensus is that removing privatization will not happen overnight. Their solution is to substantially reduce the scope of contracts with private prisons and eventually phase them out.



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U.S. Department of Justice