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In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen on Justice Department private prisons announcement

Washington—In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen issued the following statement on the Justice Department’s reversal of the Obama administration’s decision to phase out the use of private prisons to detain undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes:

“The Justice Department’s decision puts private profit over human dignity, but it’s no surprise. Jeff Sessions is a private prison enthusiast. As Alabama’s attorney general, Sessions green lighted their use in the state, and shortly after the Obama Justice Department’s original announcement GEO Group, the country’s second largest private prison company, hired two former Sessions aides as lobbyists.

“Trump’s presidency continues to be a boon for private prison companies. His mass deportation plans have sent the stocks of CoreCivic (formerly CCA) and GEO Group soaring. His executive orders declare open season on anyone with brown skin, and hundreds of people have already been detained. Private prison companies already provide the majority of immigration detention space, and they want more.

“Corporations have no business being involved in criminal justice or deportation. Because private prison companies have to turn a big profit for their executives and shareholders, they cut corners, making their facilities particularly dangerous, unsanitary, and staffed with inexperienced, underpaid correctional officers. The public gives them hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in profit each year and what do we get in return? Less control over our criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and high rates of recidivism and job turnover.

“Trump and Sessions need private prison companies for mass deportation and a return to the failed war on drugs. If CoreCivic and GEO Group have their way, poor and working families will be broken up and communities will be further devastated, and already rich executives and shareholders will profit even more.”

In the Public Interest’s research on the private prison industry includes:

  • A report revealing six banks that play large roles in financing CoreCivic and GEO Group: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, and U.S. Bancorp.
  • A report outlining how private prison and other corrections companies spend millions of dollars influencing public officials.
  • A factsheet describing how private prison companies market their empty facilities to local and state governments, and the federal government.
  • A brief showing that people incarcerated in private prisons have higher rates of recidivism.
  • An infographic showing the presence of corporations throughout the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems.

In the Public Interest is a nonprofit research and policy center advocating for the democratic control of public goods and services.

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