New report provides national update on interstate prisoner transfers to private, for-profit prisons

January 26, 2016

While numbers are down from 2013, over 7,300 prisoners are housed in out-of-state private, for-profit lockups and new states consider joining the trend

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) — As a follow-up to the 2013 report, Locked Up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry, Grassroots Leadership released a new report today providing an updated look at states’ practice of shipping incarcerated people en masse to out-of-state private, for-profit prisons.

While the number of prisoners in out-of-state private prisons has decreased since 2013, four states — Vermont, California, Idaho, and Hawaii — continue to ship a combined 7,000 prisoners to for-profit prisons across state lines as a “solution” for prison overcrowding at home. A fifth state, Arkansas, now also relies on hundreds of out-of-state prison beds, while Washington and North Dakota may very likely follow suit.

“Shipping prisoners to out-of-state private prisons is harmful and regressive criminal justice policy that allows state leaders to delay critical, long-lasting reform,” said Holly Kirby, criminal justice organizer at Grassroots Leadership and author of the report. “We must stop allowing corporations to profit from our mass incarceration crisis, which disproportionately harms the poor and communities of color.”

The report found that as of December 2015, Vermont and California saw the most significant decreases in use of out-of-state private prison beds, 37% and 49%, respectively. Hawaii and Idaho reduced their out-of-state prisoner populations by 19% and 15%. While these changes are signs of progress, Arkansas signed a $2.5 million contract with Bowie County Texas to house over 300 prisoners across state lines in a private lockup, and Washington and North Dakota may soon ship prisoners to private prisons in Michigan and Colorado, respectively.

The report concludes that as states continue to grapple with prison overcrowding and mass incarceration, relying on out-of-state private prisons, building new prisons, using beds in local jails, and contracting with public facilities in other states are shortsighted measures that should be avoided. State leaders should prioritize long-term solutions that decrease criminalization and incarceration, cut ties with prison profiteers, and support and strengthen families and communities.


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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.