WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 – Sen. Bernie Sanders pressed for action to ban private prisons today following a report that the two largest private prison operators in the United States made a combined $361 million in profits last year.
The Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator, collected $3,356 in profit per prisoner. GEO Group, the country’s second largest private prison operator, made $2,135 in profit per prisoner, according to new data released by In the Public Interest.
“America has more people behind bars than any major country – more even than China, an authoritarian regime,” Sanders said. “We cannot fix our criminal justice system if corporations are allowed to profit from mass incarceration. Companies should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars. We have got to end the private, for-profit prison racket in America.”
Public programs to prevent incarceration and support rehabilitation cost much less per inmate than paying private corporations to imprison millions of Americans. “Instead of investing in jails and incarceration, our focus should be on providing jobs and education to keep people out of jail and on ensuring prisoners have the resources they need to get back on their feet when they get out,” Sanders said.
Sanders has introduced legislation to bar states and the federal government from contracting with private prison companies. The Justice Is Not for Sale Act, introduced in the House by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), would also reinstate the federal parole system, increase oversight over companies that provide banking and telephone services for inmates and end the requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintain 34,000 detention beds.