On Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced that he would be introducing criminal justice reform legislation next week.
According to Sanders’ campaign website:
“Of the nearly 1.6 million people in federal and state prisons in 2013, 133,044 (8.4 percent) were in private prisons. That included 41,150 federal inmates in private facilities (19.1 percent of all federal prisoners) and 91,885 state prisoners in private facilities (6.8 percent of total state inmates). Most of the individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement also are in private detention facilities.”
Sanders then states, “My legislation will eliminate federal, state and local contracts for privately run prisons within 2 years. It will reinstate the federal parole system. It will increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services. It will end the mandatory quota of immigrants detained. It will require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities and eliminate private detention centers within 2 years.”
The private prison lobby in the United States is huge. According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute, between 2000 and 2010 the private prison population more than doubled. Private prison companies have helped draft legislation that have increased incarceration rates.
Private prisons have an incentive to require the government to implement quotas of prisoners in their contracts. So incarcerating people becomes profitable for these companies.
On the Republican side, Senator Marco Rubio, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the president, has been the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the GEO Group, the nation’s second largest for-profit prison company.