Justice Department Plans to Stop Using Private Prisons

The announcement comes after a Mother Jones investigation found serious deficiencies at a private prison in Louisiana.

An inmate at Winn Correctional Center, in Louisiana, which until recently was run by the Corrections Corporation of America.Mother Jones

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The Department of Justice will stop contracting with private prisons, the department announced Thursday morning. The decision comes a week after the DOJ inspector general released a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons, which incarcerate 12 percent of federal inmates.

The announcement comes on the heels of a Mother Jones investigation of a private prison in Louisiana that found serious deficiencies in staffing and security. It also documented a higher rate of violence than the prison reported. Last week’s DOJ report found that private prisons are more violent than federal prisons.

As of December 2015, private prisons incarcerated about 22,600 federal inmates. The news of the DOJ’s decision prompted a quick downturn in stock prices for the two largest private prison companies.

The decision was announced in a memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, according to the Washington Post. The memo directs department officials not to renew existing contracts or to “substantially reduce” their scope, with the goal of “reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons.”

Read Mother Jones‘ editor-in-chief and CEO on what it took to pull off our investigation.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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