Rep. Raul Grijalva wants an end to privately owned prisons, immigrant detention centers


A Latino Democratic lawmaker from Arizona has drafted legislation that would end federal contracts with private companies and remove federal prisoners and immigrant detainees from facilities within two years.

Raul Raul Greyjalva of Arizona has no Justice for Sale Act on Thursday. This would prevent the Justice Department from contracting with private entities to provide or operate prisons and immigration detention facilities, as well as transfer their prisoners and detainees out of those facilities.

“For a very long time, private prisons and detention centers have benefited from lucrative government contracts and taxpayer dollars to relieve the pain and suffering of others,” Grazalva said in a statement to NBC News.

Grijalwa’s law will proceed with a January 26 executive order from President Joe Biden, which terminates private prison contracts and directs the judicial department to decline to renew private prison contracts.

Biden’s order does not address privately operated immigration detention centers as does Grizva’s bill.

While about 8 percent of prisoners were held in private prisons, according to a report last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, 81 percent of those in immigration detention were held in privately run or -operated detention centers.

The bill seeks to end contracts with private companies for other criminal justice entities, such as halfway houses, re-entry programs and community treatment centers, among others. Grijalva’s office said that private companies have expanded in those areas as the movement against the private prison industry has increased.

‘Distorted profit incentives’

Immigration and civil rights advocates have pressed Biden to end private contracts for immigration detention.

Grigalva called Biden’s executive order “an important step to address the massive harassment crisis that adversely affects immigrants and communities of color.” But he said the federal government should stop using state and local prisons and immigration detention centers that contract with private companies and “account for a large slice of the American prison population.”

“My bill eliminates family detention and restores case management programs, removing the perverse benefit incentives that allow private prison companies to flourish,” he said.

In letters written to House associates describing their legislation, the Auditor General of Arizona in 2010 and the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2011 found separate reports comparing the use of public facilities to private inmates keeping inmates Costs more.

He said private prison companies, through the American Legislative Exchange Council, have advocated stricter laws that have helped them increase the prison population.

The bill will also see how inmates and families are charged for services such as banking and phone calls, and it increases oversight and inspection of immigration detention centers.

A 2016 Department of Justice report found that private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner inmates and a greater number of inmate-on-staff attacks than federal prisons, the letter said .

Grijalva has sponsored legislation since 2015 to address the private prison industry, beginning this task as co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.

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