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Justice Department considering no contract renewals for private prisons, including Taft prison

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Posted at 1:20 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 21:58:33-04

The Taft Correctional Institution may be one of many corporate-run private prisons phased out by the U.S. Department of Justice at the end of its contract.

Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates sent a memo to the Bureau of Prisons suggesting the bureau either decline to renew contracts or reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population.

The federal prison population increased by almost 800% between 1980 and 2013, at a rate the Bureau of Prisons couldn’t accommodate in their own facilities. A decade ago the bureau began contracting privately operated correctional institutions to hold some federal inmates.

At the peak in 2013, privately operated prisons held approximately 15% or 30,000 inmates.

A recent inspector general’s report found the private prisons had more safety and security violations than prisons ran by the Bureau of Prisons, the LA Times reported.

2,187 federal offenders are currently in the Taft facility, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Taft prison released the following statement:

MTC is disappointed to learn that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is planning to end the use of contract prisons within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) system. Contract prisons have long provided valuable, cost efficient, and effective services to the BOP. If the DOJ’s decision to end the use of contract prisons were based solely on declining inmate populations, there may be some justification, but to base this decision on cost, safety and security, and programming is wrong. The facts don’t support the allegations as demonstrated below.

Cost

A 2016 BOP report[1] clearly shows contract prisons save taxpayers $17 per day per offender. This amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. According to this report, the cost of housing a low level offender in a public BOP facility is $80.20; the cost in a contract prison is $63.35. This imprudent decision by the DOJ will come with a very heavy cost to taxpayers.

Safety & Security

A recent Office of Inspector General report showed contract prisons had more incidents than public prisons and therefore concluded contract prisons were not as safe. This is a misleading conclusion because it doesn’t take into account the vastly different inmate populations in contract and public prisons.

The majority of inmates in contract prisons are from one country which brings inherent increased risk of violence. Homogeneous inmate populations have greater gang activity and increased misconduct which naturally results in more incidents. It is not because contract prisons are not as safe and secure, it is because a homogeneous inmate population has a greater inherent risk for problems.

Public BOP facilities have a very diverse inmate population. Simply put, they don’t deal with the level of misconduct and gang activity as seen in contract prisons and therefore don’t have as many incidents. This was confirmed in the OIG report.

Omitting this critical context from the OIG report resulted in misleading information that made contract prisons appear to be more violent than public prisons—when they serve completely different populations.

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 had especially favorable results including not a single security finding. The Dalby facility provided programming above and beyond contractual requirements.

Programming

MTC’s hallmark is its commitment to rehabilitating offenders in order to improve their living conditions while in prison and increase their chances of success after release. Our goal is to reduce recidivism by providing effective programming. We provide services above and beyond the requirements of the contract. In 2015, MTC awarded more than 32,000 certificates to offenders for completing GED, vocational, substance abuse, and life skills courses.