DOJ's Announcement to End Private Prisons is Fundamentally Flawed
BACKGROUND ON DOJ ANNOUNCEMENT
On August 18, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would reduce—and ultimately end—its use of privately operated prisons. DOJ’s announcement to shut down private prisons is shortsighted and potentially dangerous. DOJ has failed to conduct a comprehensive analysis of this fundamental shift in policy, including the impact on overcrowding, prison safety and security, costs, and local economic impact.
The DOJ announcement is based on the fact that the federal prison population has begun to decline—from nearly 220,000 inmates in 2013 to fewer than 195,000 inmates today; however, the BOP is still at 123% capacity. The DOJ decision was also based on an August 11, 2016 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report: Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons in which the DOJ concluded that contract prisons don’t compare favorably to BOP public facilities.
The OIG compared the 14 prisons (contract prisons) operated by companies like MTC and 14 public Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities and concluded “contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions.”
OIG CONCLUSION FLAWED
The conclusions drawn in the OIG report are fundamentally flawed because the OIG did not make a side-by-side comparison because contract prison and public facilities house vastly different inmate populations. Those in contract facilities house a very homogeneous population while public facilities house a very diverse group. The OIG report indicated that the inmate population in contract prisons “were primarily non-U.S. citizens with 72.1 percent from Mexico, while the selected BOP institutions had an average of 11.8 percent non-U.S. citizens.” As a result of the different populations, the OIG states they were “unable to evaluate all of the factors that contributed to the underlying [safety and security] data…”
- The Justice Department Used Shaky Statistics to Drop Private Prisons
- The DOJ's Misguided Withdrawal from Private Prisons
- Before Padlocking Private Prisons, Get Some Credible Evidence
BOP CAUTIONS AGAINST DRAWING CONCLUSIONS FROM OIG REPORT
In response to the OIG audit, the BOP cautioned “…against drawing comparisons of contract prisons to BOP-operated facilities as the different nature of the inmate populations and programs offered in each facility limit such comparisons.”
THE DOJ ANNOUNCEMENT PHASING OUT THE USE OF CONTRACT PRISONS
Despite BOP’s caution against drawing conclusions about contract prisons from the OIG report, one week after the report was released the DOJ used the flawed report to justify its decision to phase out the use of contract prisons. DOJ’s memo announcing the end of private prisons stated: “They (contractors) simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.” MTC strongly disputes the DOJ’s assessment. Results of annual BOP audits and BOP cost comparison data also refute the DOJ’s assessment.
MTC BOP FACILITIES HIGHLY RATED
MTC operates two facilities for the BOP: Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Texas and the Taft Correctional Facility in California. During the most recent comprehensive BOP audit, the Taft facility received "superior" results including not a single security finding. The Dalby facility also received high marks and provided programming above and beyond contractual requirements.
FACILITY AUDIT, ACCREDITATION, AND PROGRAMMING RESULTS:
- Congressional Oversight Committee Questions DOJ Decision
- Congressional Leaders Question DOJ Decision
CONTRACT PRISONS SAVE GOVERNMENT $17 A DAY PER INMATE
According to a February 2016 BOP budget document detailing FY 2015 per capita costs, contract prisons cost $63.35 per inmate per day. Low-security public facilities have a total daily cost of $80.20 per inmate per day. Contract prisons save the federal government $17 per day per inmate amounting to millions of dollars in taxpayer savings annually.
DOJ ANNOUNCEMENT SPARKS DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS) REVIEW
On August 29, 2016, the DHS announced that in light of the DOJ announcement, it would “evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should move in the same direction.” Results of the review are expected by the end of November 2016.
ICE DIRECTOR AFFIRMS GOVERNMENT NEED FOR CONTRACT PRISONS
Shortly following DHS’s announcement to evaluate the need for contractors, the Director of ICE Sarah Saldaña said eliminating the use of contract prisons “would pretty much turn our system upside down.”
MTC ICE Facilities Highly Rated: MTC operates three ICE Facilities: IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility in Texas, Imperial Regional Detention Facility in California, and the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico. During the most recent ICE audit, MTC’s facilities were found to be in compliance with all national standards with no issues or concerns cited.
FACILITY AUDIT, ACCREDITATION, AND PROGRAMMING RESULTS:
- IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility
- Imperial Regional Detention Facility
- Otero County Processing Center
DOJ ANNOUNCEMENT AND DHS REVIEW HAVE NO IMPACT ON STATES
The DOJ announcement and DHS review have no impact on state corrections agencies which operate under the direction of state legislatures. The majority of MTC’s corrections contracts are with state governments. Contract prisons like MTC continue to enjoy a very strong partnership with state corrections agencies. The following states have publicly reiterated their support for the continued use of contract prisons: Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, and New Mexico.
CONTRACT PRISON MISPERCEPTIONS
A handful of organizations throughout the U.S. are philosophically opposed to the use of contractors within corrections—even though contractors only secure approximately 8% of all U.S. inmates. These groups have made several allegations against contract prisons—all of which are unfounded and misleading. Click here to learn more.