The Justice Department announced today that the United States will stop using for-profit prisons. The decision comes just a week after a report revealed that private prisons are less cost-effective and less safe than public prisons.
For those of us committed to fighting America’s “carceral state” — where nearly 1 in every 100 Americans are in jail — this is an important step in the right direction. Private prisons — where roughly 12% of all American prisoners are held — accrue a disproportionately high number of safety and security incidents each year compared to their public counterparts, in part because regulatory oversight of the day-to-day goings-on in these prisons is minimal.
People of colour are vastly overrepresented in our nation’s prison population. But, studies also show that people of colour — defined as “Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and non-white Hispanic or Latino” are even more overrepresented in our nation’s for-profit prisons. In California, where for-profit prisons picked up additional inmates after the state faced overcrowding of its public facilities, 89% of prisoners in a private facility are non-White, compared to 76% in a public prison.