After years of reported abuse and mistreatment without apparent cost savings, the Justice Department is phasing out the use of federal private prisons.
This is a morally and financially sound decision that should be adopted by state governments using the same practice.
Private prisons: An overview
After the tough-on-crime era spurred rising prison populations around the United States, federal prisons began to contract with private facilities to handle the overflow.
Between 1999 and 2000, the number of inmates in private prisons grew by 90 percent. Now, between federal and state, there are around 1.5 million prisoners held in private facilities countrywide.
The financial issues with private prisons
One of the motives behind contracting to private prisons was to save money, as studiespredicted that the facilities would save between five and 15 percent compared to public-run facilities.
However, as early as 2001, the Justice Department was finding that the supposed cost savings had failed to materialize. And, the same report reveals that even if private prisons were actually saving the money as promised, the amount would not have a significant impact on the budget.
All that said, private prisons are not guaranteed to save money. Recent cases have popped up in which local governments were forced to pay hefty fines after agreeing to faulty deals with private prisons that granted them tax-exempt status.