WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva and CPC Member Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released the following statement today after the Justice Department announced they will end contracts with private prisons.
“The Department of Justice announcement that it is ending its reliance on for-profit prison corporations is welcome news, but it is long overdue,” Rep. Grijalva said. “It is not breaking news that these facilities that have fueled mass incarceration in our country are more costly, less effective and more dangerous than those run by the government. I’m glad that DOJ has finally recognized these facts, but their actions alone are not enough. Until DHS and state governments around the country break ties with these corporations, justice in this country will continue to be undermined by private profit motives, and innocent people will continue to suffer.”
“This isn’t simply unjust detainment – this is the exploitation of human captivity – including young children – for the sake of money. People die in these facilities because companies refuse to pay for adequate medical care. People starve because they have no other means of taking a stand against the injustices inmates face besides hunger strikes. These corporations are eroding the moral fabric of our nation. I urge all government actors with ties to this morally bankrupt industry to follow DOJ’s lead and end their contracts without delay.”
“Today’s announcement by the Department of Justice that it will end the use of private prisons will allow us to once again prioritize justice, which should be the sole incentive when taking away someone’s freedom. Never profit,” Rep. Ellison said. “When these private prison corporations began spending millions of dollars on lobbying the government for harsher sentencing and immigration laws, our country saw a sharp increase in its prison population – essentially turning millions of people into commodities. Not to mention these private prisons are more expensive, more dangerous, and less effective in rehabilitating than other prisons.”
“The DOJ announcement is a good first step and I commend them for taking action. However, in order to ensure we are truly focusing on justice we must reform our criminal justice system and end the use of private prisons completely.”
“Our criminal justice system is broken and in need of major reforms,” Sen. Sanders said. “The Justice Department’s plan to end its use of private prisons is an important step in the right direction. It is exactly what I campaigned on as a candidate for president.
“It is an international embarrassment that we put more people behind bars than any other country on earth. Due in large part to private prisons, incarceration has been a source of major profits to private corporations. Study after study after study has shown private prisons are not cheaper, they are not safer, and they do not provide better outcomes for either the prisoners or the state.
“We have got to end the private prison racket in America as quickly as possible. Our focus should be on keeping people out of jail and making sure they stay out when they are released. This means funding jobs and education not more jails and incarceration.”
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have long advocated for an end to private prisons. Both Congressman Grijalva and Senator Sanders, along with 30 cosponsors, introduced the Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2015, which would reform the federal prison system by ending contracts with private prisons and change requirements of ICE facilities to ensure more humane treatment of detainees.