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August 23, 2022

New Sentencing Project fact sheet on "Private Prisons in the United States"

The folks at The Sentencing Project have this notable new fact sheet titled simply "Private Prisons in the United States." Here is part of the text of the short document:

Private prisons incarcerated 100,151 American residents in 2020, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 15%.

Harmful crime policies of the 1980s and beyond fueled a rapid expansion in the nation’s prison population. The resulting burden on the public sector led to the modern emergence of for-profit prisons in many states and the federal system. Of the 1.2 million people in federal and state prisons, 8%, or 100,151 people, were in private prisons as of yearend 2020.

States show significant variation in the use of private prisons. At one end of the spectrum, Montana incarcerates half of its prison population in privately run facilities, but in another 19 states, private prisons are not used at all. A total of 31 states use private corporations like GEO Group, Core Civic,1 LaSalle Corrections, and Management and Training Corporation to run some of their corrections facilities.

Montana is not alone in its reliance on private prisons. Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Florida rely considerably on private prisons for housing imprisoned people. In these states, between 13% and 45% of the prison population resides in a for-profit prison.

August 23, 2022 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


States should pass legislation outlawing private prisons. There is no need for private carceral facilities and you can find bipartisan support to close these facilities. Private prisons are a relic of the "tough on crime" era and should've closed a decade ago. Advocates for criminal justice reform to propose closing private prisons and focus on closing state prisons.

Posted by: anon | Aug 24, 2022 12:22:48 AM

Private prisons were a disaster here in Kentucky. For some years, the Kentucky Dept. of Corrections has a contract with GEO Group to house women inmates in a private prison in Otter Creek, Kentucky (Lee County). Female inmates from Hawaii were also housed there. There was a serious problem with the male guards having sex with the female inmates. Several guards were fired and/or criminally prosecuted. Yet, GEO Group delayed reporting the incidents to the Ky. DOC, and did not report the incidents involving the women from Hawaii to Ky. DOC at all. When these issues became public, the Kentucky Legislature voted to terminate the contract with GEO Group. Now that Kentucky's prison population is again growing (2 years after 2,000+ inmates were released early by commutations and early releases because of COVID-19), the DOC is leasing the Otter Creek prison from GEO Group (to hold male inmates), but is staffing it with guards hired directly by the DOC, not GEO Group employees. A problem is that these are some of the same people from nearly communities who previously worked for GEO Group; now they are being hired by the DOC. It remains to be seen whether the Ky. DOC can maintain better control over the guards, and whether the sexual misconduct issues will be non-existent because the inmates are men instead of women.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Aug 24, 2022 9:59:56 AM

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