Private prisons continue to thrive

In the colossal entity that is the United States criminal justice system, an estimated 20% of prisons are private and for-profit. Private prisons provide an awful incentive to continue the sad trend of mass incarceration that the United States has had for decades. Contracts that federal and state governments have with private prisons usually stipulate a high rate of occupancy (frequently 90% or more), thereby incentivizing the government to lock up large numbers of people.

Some of these contracts are awarded to companies that run detention centers for undocumented immigrants. A recent report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights found that such centers are inhumane and rife with abuse. Despite a well-publicized, harsh critique of these detention centers, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) announced -on the same day that that report was issued- a new contract with one of the companies named as having committed grave violations in the report.

ICE clearly has learned nothing from years of criticism over its policies, including the most recent ones from within the federal government. At a time where mass incarceration is being discussed as one of the most serious problems in the United States, ICE is contributing to this devastating trend. The federal government has decided to continue to waste millions of dollars on an immoral and ineffective practice that perpetuates the suffering of tens of thousands. It is profoundly disappointing to see ICE take this course of action, a course that hopefully, one day, can be reversed.

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