Politicians are making a big deal about a decision by the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons. The DOJ cites a history of poor care standards for inmates and high recidivism as drivers for the move. But what might sound like a win for human rights might in fact be just a drop in the bucket.
While 13 private prisons will cease operation due to the DOJ move, the industry will continue to house most of the nation’s convicted illegal aliens, the population responsible for supporting these jails. The prisoners aren’t managed by the DOJ, so no matter what is said, government support for substandard conditions will continue.
The dynamic this creates is a vicious cycle that relies on a roughly 75 percent recidivism rate to fuel inmate housing operations where people can’t learn skills to improve their situations and suffer from a lower quality of life compared to inmates in federal facilities.
Scrutiny of the laws that landed many of these inmates in prison is one motivator for the change. But the fact is that the majority of private prison inmates aren’t under the Department of Justice’s purview. Only just over 22,000 inmates reside in the 13 facilities that will close under the DOJ’s decision, which means that the private prison industry will continue to deliver substandard care to hundreds of thousands of inmates.
As of 2015, just over 60 percent of detention beds for convicted immigrants were outsourced to private operations, comprising over 250 facilities spread out across the nation. With nearly 400,000 inmates a year detained by Homeland Security, the withdrawal of 22,000 from the DOJ will do little to right the current situation.
The question is whether the government is interested in making an impact that is more than just symbolic.
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Anum Yoon is a writer who is passionate about personal finance and sustainability. She often looks for ways she can incorporate money management with environmental awareness. You can read her updates on <a href="http://www.currentoncurrency.com>Current on Currency</a>.