President Joe Biden vowed to eventually put an finish to exclusive prisons, but activists states the relocate isn't enough to completely address mass incarcerations.

You are watching: How many private prisons are there in the united states


*

Detainees to walk in a hallway at the Northwest Detention center in Tacoma, Wash., on June 21, 2017.Ted S. Warren / AP file
President Joe Biden top top Tuesday signed an executive order that will phase out the department of Justice’s use of private prisons.

The activity is component of the administration’s initiative to deal with racial inequity in the country and also make an excellent on Biden’s campaign promises to black color Americans — who were integral to securing his presidential win.


The order directs the Justice department to decrease to renew contracts through privately-operated, for-profit prisons. This effort started under the Obama administration and to be championed through then-DeputyAttorney general Sally Yates. The policy was easily axed through the Trump administration in 2017. Now, scholars space taking a depth look in ~ the revitalized policy, and questioning the overall influence on racial inequity.

"When it comes to private prisons, the influence of this bespeak is going to be slight come none," stated John Pfaff, a professor of legislation at the Fordham University college of Law. "This is not about shrinking the footprint that the federal prison system, it’s just about transferring world to publicly facilities. Biden is telling an executive firm under his manage what type of contracts they can enter, that’s a core executive role of Biden’s."

Still states can still choose "who to write contracts with," Pfaff said. "In practice, this will end up being an ext symbolic and also will have tiny impact on any kind of issue of racial justice and the system. The symbolism carries the really real risk of making united state blind come the almost identical incentives of the public prison sector, and also the public side is so much vaster in scope."

Few details have actually been released about the stimulate scaling ago private prison use, yet the early stage Obama-era policy concentrated on around a dozen privately-run facilities. The commonwealth Bureau the Prisons stated then that roughly 195,000 world were incarcerated in the bureau"s or private-contract facilities. Today, there are nearly 152,000 civilization incarcerated federally, v 14,000 housed at privately-managed facilities, follow to The connected Press.

Related


A 2016 report by the justice Department found that private prisons see high rates of assault, usage of pressure incidents and also lockdowns. V that, Biden said throughout a Tuesday push briefing the the policy is “the very first step to protect against corporations native profiting off of incarceration that is much less humane and also less safe.” He dubbed it the start of his overall plan to resolve systemic difficulties in the criminal justice system.


A spokesperson because that the management did not automatically respond come a request for comment.

During his campaign, Biden do a slew of guarantees aimed in ~ tackling troubles with the criminal legit system. That vowed to crack under on systemic misconduct in police departments and also prosecutors’ offices and also call for the immediate passage of the Safe, Accountable, Fair and also Effective (SAFE) righteousness Act, a bundle of small reforms that might eventually alleviate the commonwealth prison population and ramp up probation efforts.

Prisons to be being privatized as beforehand as the 1800s and increased after the polite War. Today, privatized prisons room a billion-dollar market with framework known for brutal living conditions. CoreCivic — formerly and also commonly the correction Corporation of America — and GEO team are 2 of the best private prison carriers in the unified States. The two run a majority of the infrastructure under the office of Prisons.

In a statement, GEO group spokesperson Pablo Paez dismissed the order as a “solution looking for a problem,” including that the policy would have financial consequences. Paez attracted attention come the bureau of Prison’s opting no to renew some personal prison contract in recent months.


The “executive order merely represents a politics statement, which could lug serious negative unintended consequences, including the lose of numerous jobs and an adverse economic impact for the neighborhoods where our facilities are located, which are currently struggling economically as result of the Covid pandemic,” he said.

CoreCivic spokesperson Steve Owen said the agency stands by its service, adding: "Any assertion that our agency or the private sector is responsible because that the rate of incarceration or detention is false."


The women's area in ~ the Northwest Detention facility in Tacoma, Wash., top top June 21, 2017.Ted S. Warren / AP

Micah Herskind, an organizer through The Southern facility for human being Rights — a Georgia civil civil liberties group concentrated on the criminal legal mechanism — claimed that back the order might seem like a significant step to deal with the criminal legit system’s issues, the initiative is a “misdirection” from structure problems. In 2016, the activist and also author Kay Whitlock detailed that a commitment to ending private prisons only appears to handle mass incarceration without having actually to structurally change the oppressive systems on i m sorry incarceration thrives. Whitlock also provided that just a small portion of the incarcerated population is in private prisons.


In 2019, 8.1 percent of civilization incarcerated in the U.S. Were held in personal prisons, follow to the most recent data native the office of justice Statistics. The order walk not show up to use to comparable contracts with other agencies prefer U.S. Immigration and also Customs Enforcement (ICE).


“Of course we require to end private prisons. However we also need to finish public prisons, and also narrowing our focus to exclusive prisons leaves undamaged a substantial public penalty apparatus the will continue to flourish out of the public spotlight,” Herskind said.

doesn"t repeal laws and policies that criminalize people and also lead to incarceration in the first place," that added. "It doesn"t do anything around the full federal prison population or the state of federal prisons. The does nothing to challenge the U.S." core conviction that it"s OK for a nation to cage millions of people — it just says the some companies shouldn"t have the ability to do the caging. I imagine the order’s primary impact will actually be to falsely convince many world that significant action has actually been taken to combat mass incarceration when the the opposite is true.”

Because personal prisons represent only a small part of the nation"s jail population, scholar such as Pfaff and also Alex Vitale, a sociology professor in ~ Brooklyn College and also the author of “The finish of Policing," said the new order doesn"t adequately deal with mass incarceration and the criminalization of social problems, such as poverty, homelessness and also drug addiction.

See more: How Many Calories In A Bottle Of Corona Light Beer, The Healthiest Beers You Can Drink


With Biden in the early days the his presidency, Vitale said, he wishes Biden puts soon a an ext substantive effort in the comes months.

"I hope this is the start of the conversation and also not the finish of the conversation," he said. "I don"t think this will have actually any affect on civilization who are already incarcerated, they"ll simply be moved to a different facility. I"d like to view him finish all federal drug crimes, commute any sentence over 20 years, and also replace resources for policing with capital for community-based initiatives."