Eliminating the Use of Private Criminal Detention Facilities

By Alyse Geiger

On January 26, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14006. In short, this order is aimed at removing the for-profit prison system in the United States. Specifically, the order states that “The Attorney General shall not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities…” Although proponents of for-profit prisons argue that private prisons add additional jobs in their local communities, President Biden’s order seeks to decrease the trend of mass incarceration, since more than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States. President Biden says that reducing profit-based incentives will help to decrease these high levels of incarceration and the disproportionate number of incarcerated people of color. But is this enough? The for-profit incarceration system has deep roots in American history. For example, the first for-profit prison, San Quentin, was established in 1852 and is still in operation today. Furthermore, without for-profit prisons, there is no guarantee that the Federal Government will be able to afford to run prisons without private investments.