On the heels of the decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to phase out the use of private prisons, Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced on Monday that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering moving away from privatized immigration detention operations.
The federal prison population grew faster than prisons could accommodate, increasing by almost 800 percent between 1980 and 2013, according to a memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates.
To alleviate crowding, the Bureau of Prisons, a subdivision of DOJ, began contracting with privately operated correctional institutions. As of 2013, 15 percent—approximately 30,000 inmates—were housed in private prisons. Since 2013, there has been a decline in the prison population, which has led DOJ to consider reducing or declining to renew its contracts with private prisons.
“While an unexpected need may arise in the future, the goal of the Justice Department is to ensure consistency in safety, security and rehabilitation services by operating its own prison facilities,” Yates stated in the memo.
The announcement followed a DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit revealing that “disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer.”
DHS may soon go in the same direction. Johnson said he has directed the Homeland Security Advisory Council, chaired by Judge William Webster, to establish a subcommittee to assess whether the Department should continue to use privately operated detention centers.
The subcommittee will provide a written report of its evaluation to Johnson and the Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by November 30, 2016.
Geo Group Inc., one of the largest operators of private immigration detention centers, issued a statement welcoming the review of ICE’s current detention and processing centers.
“Over the last 30 years, our company has partnered with the Federal Government to develop special-purpose facilities that provide needed services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments,” said George C. Zoley, GEO’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Our public-private partnership has allowed ICE to transfer services from older public jail facilities that did not meet the most up-to-date national standards to GEO’s highly rated, cost-effective facilities.”
“We are confident that this independent review will show that GEO has provided needed, cost-effective services that have resulted in significantly improved safety outcomes for the men and women in ICE’s care and custody,” added Zoley.