TASSC Applauds Justice Department Decision to End Private Prison Contracting

TASSC welcomes the good news coming from the Department of Justice that it will cease contracting with private prisons, such as GEO and CCA (Corrections Corporation of America). Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that privately run prisons have more safety and security problems than prisons run directly by the government’s Bureau of Prisons.  These private prisons hold about 12 percent of all federal prisoners.

This decision does not affect torture survivors and other asylum immigrants detained by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. But, it is an important first step in the long struggle by TASSC and allied organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress ,and Detention Watch Network, to end all government contracting with private prisons.  In 2015, GEO and CCA ran almost two-thirds of federal, state and local prisons that house asylum seekers and others detained by ICE, often under horrendous conditions.

TASSC has advocated for ending ICE contracting with private prisons for five years. Last year, it organized an initiative in the U.S. Congress that directly addressed this issue. Survivors and staff visited congressional offices to support the Justice is Not for Sale Act sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders, a former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, said that private prisons “should not be making a profit off putting people in prison.”

Survivors in U.S. detention can be retraumatized because this experience reminds them of when they were imprisoned and tortured by their home governments. Alene, a  survivor from Ethiopia, was placed in solitary confinement for two weeks. According to Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, “prolonged solitary confinement” is considered torture because it “causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm.”

Now, it is time for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to follow the example set by the Department of Justice. Department of Homeland Security needs to end all contracts with GEO, CCA, and other private companies that make money for every immigrant that ICE puts in detention.

Click here to see the full August 18th Washington Post's article.