BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders stated today that the United States needs major reforms to our broken criminal justice system, and that a good step forward would be to end the practice of prisons in America being run by private corporations. He will soon introduce legislation to do just that.
Of the nearly 1.6 million people in federal and state prisons in 2013, 133,044 (8.4 percent) were in private prisons. That included 41,150 federal inmates in private facilities (19.1 percent of all federal prisoners) and 91,885 state prisoners in private facilities (6.8 percent of total state inmates). Most of the individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement also are in private detention facilities.
“It is clear to most Americans that we need major reforms in our broken criminal justice system,” Sanders said. “We need to end the tragic reality that the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth, and that the people being incarcerated are disproportionately black and Hispanic. We need to take a hard look at why the rate of recidivism in this country is so high and why we are not developing successful paths back to civil society for those who serve prison time. Further we need to end, once and for all, the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans.
“As a nation, our goal must be to do everything we can to create the conditions that prevent mass incarceration. At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails. Not only can we prevent thousands of lives from being destroyed, we can save billions of taxpayer dollars. Locking people up is a lot more expensive than schools,” Sanders said.
“Overall, we need bold change in our criminal justice system. A good first step forward is to start treating prisoners as human beings, not profiting from their incarceration. Our emphasis must be on rehabilitation, not incarceration and longer prison sentences. The basic decisions regarding criminal justice and public safety are, without a doubt, the responsibility of the citizens of our country and not the investors in private corporations.
“My legislation will eliminate federal, state and local contracts for privately run prisons within 2 years. It will reinstate the federal parole system. It will increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services. It will end the mandatory quota of immigrants detained. It will require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities and eliminate private detention centers within 2 years.”
Sanders will be introducing this bill next week.