WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to phase out federal contracts with private prisons is a positive step to lowering the US rates of mass incarceration, The Sentencing Project director of advocacy Nicole D. Porter told Sputnik on Friday.
“The Justice Department announcement around phasing out these for-profit prison contracts is certainly welcome, and continues to move this country in the right direction,” Porter said.
On Thursday, the DOJ announced it would stop renewing contracts with private prisons that have failed to make reductions in the prison population, consistent with recent US federal sentencing guidelines. The measure could reduce the privately-held federal prison population by nearly half of its 2013 peak by 2017.
Porter, whose organization advocates for US sentencing reform, added that the DOJ decision will contribute to “efforts to reduce the prison population and reduce the scale of incarceration, given the fact that the United States has the largest prison population in the world.”
After the US federal prison population grew by nearly 800 percent over approximately two decades, President Barack Obama initiated a series of criminal justice reforms, which have already resulted in a decline of 25,000 federal prisoners held in private facilities.
The Obama administration appears determined to continue its criminal justice reform efforts in the final months of Obama’s presidency, Porter said.
The Justice Department’s actions will only impact federal prisoners, who account for approximately 12 percent of the private prison population. The total US prison population in 2015 was more than 2.2 million, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
The Sentencing Project is an independent non-profit advocacy organization founded in 1986 to promote criminal justice and sentencing policy reforms in the United States.