Thursday, September 1, 2016
DHS to Review Use of For-Profit Prisons for Immigrants
On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that he has directed the Department to look into whether it should reduce and ultimately end its use of private, for-profit prisons who hold people awaiting civil immigration court hearings.
To end its reliance on private prisons, DHS would either have to build many new immigrant prisons, enter new contracts with many local jails, or dramatically reduce the number of immigrants who are incarcerated pending a court hearing. Our hope is for the latter.
The decision comes on the heels of the Justice Department’s announcement that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will begin to phase out their use of private prisons. According to the Justice Department private prisons, have less oversight, are ultimately less safe, and do not save money.
However, contrary to popular belief most federal private prisons are not under the supervision of the BOP, but actually under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. Immigrants who are simply awaiting their day in civil immigration court. While the BOP decision will impact only 13 federal prisons, the announcement from DHS could have a large impact on the lives of thousands of immigrants who have come to the US fleeing violence and persecution in their native lands.
As the US begins to take steps in reducing its prison population we remain cautiously optimistic by this latest move from the Department. At NCTE, we will continue to advocate for the ultimate elimination of immigration detention centers while simultaneously advocating for improved conditions for those who are being detained.
Sec. Johnson has ordered the Department’s Homeland Security Advisory Council to provide him and the Director of Immigration Customs and Enforcement a detailed report of its review no later than November 30, 2016.