Encouraged by DOJ phasing out use of private prisons, now must extend cuts to  ICE detention centers

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Washington, DC — In response to President Biden’s executive order on eliminating the use of private prisons, Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network offered the following statement: 

“We are encouraged that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice is prioritizing phasing out the use of private prisons  — a decision that was made too late in the Obama administration and was immediately reversed by Trump.

The engine of the US mass incarceration system runs on perverse financial incentives, and the private prison industry is one of the most notorious profiteers in the federal system. Private prison corporations, most notably GEO Group and CoreCivic, have a well-documented record of abuse and medical neglect that underscores the fatal impact of the industry on mass incarceration, including immigration detention. Whether called “jail,” “prison,” or “detention center” these systems share the same unjust design: to incarcerate people of color, profit off of them, and strip them of their dignity.

The Biden administration must now address the private prison industry’s toxic relationship with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ending immigration detention is part and parcel to the advancement of racial justice. As of January 2020, 81 percent of people detained in ICE custody nationwide are held in facilities owned or managed by private prison corporations.

Throughout the system, we see evidence that these corporations seek to maximize their profits by cutting costs at the expense of people’s health, safety and wellbeing. They are not accountable and don’t experience consequences for even severe deficiencies, exert undue influence over government officials and immigration policy, and fight tooth and nail to avoid even minimal transparency. 

DHS must take immediate steps to end all profiteering in the immigration detention system by closing down detention facilities, including ending all contracts with private prison corporations and state and local governments as a first step towards ending the harmful detention system entirely.”



Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.