'Locked Up and Shipped Away'

February 2, 2016
The Crime Report

The number of inmates transferred to private prisons outside their home states decreased by about 3,000 between 2013 and 2015, but for-profit prisons  continue to delay prison reform, according to a report published by the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

The January 2016 brief, entitled “Locked Up & Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry,” is an update to a November 2013 report which found more than 10,500 inmates from Vermont, California, Idaho, and Hawaii were incarcerated outside their home states—a number which had declined to 7,300 by 2015 due to reforms implemented in some of the states. However, one additional state—Arkansas—started transferring inmates out-of-state within the last two years.

The decline in California prisoners being transferred out-of-state (a 37 percent drop over two years) can be attributed in part to the 2011 Public Safety Realignment, the author of the study, Holly Kirby, said in an email. She added that the decline in Vermont can be attributed in part to the work of advocacy groups such as Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.

“While decreasing the number of prisoners sent to for-profit prisons across state lines is a step in the right direction, work remains to reduce incarceration and end the practice entirely. States should also avoid building new prisons, utilizing beds in local jails, or contracting with public facilities in other jurisdictions as strategies for addressing prison overcrowding,” Kirby writes in the conclusion. “These strategies do not aim to reduce reliance on criminalization and incarceration and they perpetuate the mass incarceration crisis, which disproportionately harms the poor and communities of color.”