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DOJ Report: Private Prisons More Dangerous Than Those Federally-Run

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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Privately-run prisons are far more dangerous than those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), according to a new report.

The Department of Justice Inspector General report found private prisons incur far more safety and security incidents than their federally-run counterparts, reports The Huffington Post. The IG studied eight categories in 28 prisons — 14 privately-run and 14 run by the BOP — in the course of the investigation.

Just three companies run private prisons in the U.S., and they collectively house 22,206 inmates. Those companies are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and Management and Training Corporation (MTC). By contrast there are 157,364 inmates in federal prisons, according to BOP statistics.

The IG found private prisons have more problems per capita with contraband, reports of incidents, lockdowns, inmate discipline, telephone monitoring and selected grievances. Federally run prisons do lead the way in two of the categories examined, however, which are positive drug tests and sexual misconduct.

An official for the CCA says part of the reason for the increased rates of safety incidents is due to the population they house. They note a high “foreign national” population within their prisons, and that as a result they house a higher number of gang members than BOP prisons.

In a response letter to the Deputy Assistant Inspector General, CCA also says the gang members housed in their prisons had pre-existing rivalries before being locked-up, which leads to “inter-group conflicts” inside the prisons.

An MTC official thinks the two are not comparable, saying that comparing the two different styles of prisons is “comparing apples and oranges.”

“Comparing public Bureau of Prisons facilities to contract prisons is like comparing apples to oranges because the two inmate populations are so vastly different,” director of corporate communications at MTC, Issa Arnita, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As stated in the OIG report, 90 to 95 percent of the inmate population in contract prisons are from the same country.”

“This creates increased risk for incidents including inmate on inmate and inmate on staff violence as homogenous inmate populations lend themselves to increased gang activity,” Arnita concluded.

Part of the appeal of private prisons is a reduced cost to house inmates, but the BOP numbers show that difference to be marginal. It costs $22,159 per inmate in private prisons, $25,251 per BOP inmate.

It is worth noting that the report does show a steadily increasing cost of housing BOP inmates. In 2011, it cost $23,780 per inmate, while in the last year reviewed, 2014, that number had taken a steady rise to its current level of $25,251. Private prisons, however, cost $22,951 in 2011, and while the number did go up slightly in 2012, it dipped again in 2013 to $21,838 before rising again to its 2014 level.

BOP contracted with private prison companies in 1997 as a means to help with the overcrowding issue with federal prisons. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson even contracted with GEO Group to build private prisons in New Mexico, where he was Governor from 1995 to 2003.

Some have taken issue with some private prisons having a quota system, saying it creates a perverse incentive to lock people up and creates unnecessary burden for taxpayers as states have to pay the prisons for any disparity in the numbers.

“When the quota isn’t met, states have to pay the prisons to make that difference up,” Jeremy Mohler, communications specialist for In The Public Interest, told TheDCNF.

This puts the burden of a quota system onto taxpayers themselves. Which, again, creates an incentive for state lawmakers to make new laws to make sure they keep the quota and don’t have to pay money out.

In The Public Interest is an organization that “researches the impacts of privatization on the common good and identify best practices and policies in responsible contracting.”

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