Payne, Jr. Leads Letter Urging Department of Homeland Security to Consider Ending Use of Private Prisons

Oct 19, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) led a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting the department consider ending its use of private prisons if those facilities are found to be less safe and effective than government-run facilities.

“We write today to commend the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for following the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) lead in reassessing its contracts with private prison operators and to ask that if your conclusions mirror DOJ’s, then DHS should cease contracting with private prison operators,” the Members  of Congress wrote.

In an August 18, 2016, memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to either decline to renew private prison contracts or “substantially reduce” the scope of the contracts, with the goal of “reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons.” Yates concluded that “[Private prisons] simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

Following Yates’s announcement, Secretary Johnson directed a DHS advisory council to evaluate whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should move in the same direction as DOJ.

Immigration detention has seen exponential growth in recent decades, and the use of private prisons for immigrants far surpasses the use of private prisons for federal and state prisoners. In their letter, the lawmakers note that “Sixty-two percent of DHS’s immigration detention beds are in privately operated facilities. By comparison, only 8.4 percent of federal and state prisoners were incarcerated in private prisons as of 2014.”

Congressman Payne, Jr. was joined on the letter by Reps. Charles Rangel (NY-13), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), José Serrano (NY-15), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), James McGovern (MA-02), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Ted Lieu (CA-33), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).

Click here for a PDF of the letter.