Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Locked Up and Shipped Away

Locked up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers & the Private Prison Industry

Holly Kirby  /  Grassroots Leadership  /  November 18, 2013

Executive Summary

Grassroots Leadership is a 33-year-old Southern-based national social justice organization that works to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education. For the past 13 years, Grassroots Leadership has worked with criminal justice reform, faith, labor, social justice, human rights, civil liberties, and student organizations to build bridges between communities to increase the capacity of local leaders and coalitions, mobilize opposition to privatization of prisons, and transform the immigration and justice systems.
As part of the ongoing efforts to create truly just public safety policy, this report examines state governments’ practice of transferring incarcerated people out of their home states to for-profit private prisons across the United States.

Major Findings

  • Interstate transfer of prisoners, or the practice of transferring incarcerated people to out-of-state prisons, is detrimental criminal justice policy that hurts families. The practice impedes prisoner rehabilitation by diminishing prisoners’ ties to family and community, compromising rather than enhancing the public good.
  • Interstate transfers of prisoners to private for-profit prisons serve the interests of an industry that views prisoners as commodities and perpetuate our nation’s mass incarceration crisis.
  • Today there are more than 10,500 state prisoners incarcerated in private for-profit prisons outside of their home states.
  • Currently, four states – California, Vermont, Idaho, and Hawai’i – house prisoners in out-of-state private prisons, while West Virginia is moving forward with a plan that could move up to 400 prisoners to private out-of-state prisons.[1]
  • With little public scrutiny, state officials have pointed to overcrowding as justification for sending incarcerated people to out-of-state prisons, rather than prioritizing decarceration and sustainable alternatives to incarceration to address prison overcrowding.
  • The lack of state laws regulating interstate transfers of prisoners has allowed state officials to send incarcerated people to out-of-state private prisons en masse without their consent.
  • Currently, prisoners in out-of-state private facilities are held approximately 450 miles to nearly 3,000 miles from their home states.
  • Using the most recent available contracts and government reports, we estimate that states will collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year incarcerating state prisoners in private prisons outside of their home states.
Section I of this report provides a brief history of the private prison industry, including how private prison corporations have raked in enormous profits from mass incarceration in the United States. In Section II we discuss the lack of uniform laws regulating the leasing of prison beds from private prison corporations, both in and out-of-state. The paucity of laws, coupled with the latitude granted to the private prison industry, enables the mass interstate transfer of incarcerated people. Section III provides an overview of today’s interstate prisoner transfer landscape, including details on which states currently have prisoners in out-of-state private prisons. We provide information on state spending and Corrections Corporation of America revenues for out-of-state private prison contracts. In Section IV we describe how the transfer of prisoners out of their home states undermines family connections and prisoner rehabilitation. In Section V we discuss oversight and liability issues for state agencies and private prison companies related to the interstate transfer of prisoners. Finally, Section VI provides our recommendations. We urge states to prioritize the return of incarcerated people currently housed out-of-state by taking steps to reduce their prison populations and passing legislation that bans the exportation of incarcerated people from their home states, particularly to for-profit private prisons.

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