The Reason Pres. Obama's Big Prison Announcement Isn't Enough

August 18th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

The Obama administration just made a huge announcement about federal private prisons: it won't use them anymore.

for profit prison

After a study by the Justice Department's Inspector General found that private prisons are more dangerous than federally run prisons, Deputy Attorney Sally Yates wrote in a statement that the DOJ will stop using them.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

ATTN: previously wrote about the business model of private prisons, which encourages prisons to stay full. Generally the more prisoners companies house, the more money they make.

However, this decision will not impact millions of prisoners.

The DOJ's decision to stop using federal private prisons is a big step for criminal justice reform, but it leaves millions of incarcerated people out of the reform loop. The change only affects federal prisons.

Only 8 to 10 percent of prisoners nationally on the state and federal level are housed by a private prison. Of those in federal prisons, 19 percent are incarcerated in a private prison, according to the Sentencing Project. There are 193,299 federal inmates according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. More than 22,000 of those federal inmates are housed in private prisons. 

David Menschel, a documentary filmmaker and criminal defense attorney, tweeted an explanation.

Tweet thread about Obama's announcement.

Tweet thread about Obama's announcement on private prisons.

Nicole D. Porter, director of advocacy at the Sentencing project, told ATTN: that this policy change is still important.

"The Obama administration is giving lawmakers the guidance they need to make a step in the right direction," she said. Although this is a significant step in criminal justice reform, much more needs to be done.

"I think what the Obama administration's guidance today shows is an effort to challenge mass incarceration for profit prison contracts," she said. "We still need to address the underlying causes of mass incarceration including large numbers of policies."

RELATED: Private, For-Profit Prisons: Where Human Beings Are Inventory