U.S. prisons and the struggle against slave labor
The headline seemed to herald a new day and was reported by corporate media as breaking news: “Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons.”
By Sara Flounders
The new directive will impact only 22,000 federal prisoners — less than 1 percent of the 2.3 million people held in U.S. prisons. It will not significantly reduce the number of prisoners at the national, state or local level.
The Department of Justice directive applies only to the Federal Prison Bureau. It does not apply to U.S. Homeland Security or federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners — the fastest-growing area of the private U.S. prison industry. In 2015 for-profit ICE prisons held 62 percent of all Homeland Security incarcerated immigrants.
As small as this change is in U.S. prison policy, it came only because of struggle by prisoners and by grass-roots activists.
The recent directive will strengthen the struggle to end existing U.S. private prisons, even though only 13 privately run facilities are covered. The directive is also significant because it goes against the drive to privatize for profit every aspect of every institution in the public domain — including schools, hospitals, libraries, social services and parks.