Rep. Grijalva Reintroduces ‘Justice is Not for Sale’ Act to Ban Private Prisons and End Immigrant Family Detention

February 11, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva reintroduced the Justice is Not for Sale Act. The bill would prohibit federal, state, and local governments from contracting with private prison companies and end immigrant family detention. Additionally, the bill prevents companies from overcharging inmates and their families for services like banking and phone calls and increases oversight of immigrant detention facilities to ensure humane treatment.

“For too long, private prisons and detention centers have benefited from lucrative government contracts and taxpayer dollars to profit off the pain and suffering of adults and children,” said Rep. Grijalva. “They created perverse profit incentives that helped facilitate a mass incarceration crisis that has disproportionately impacted immigrants and communities of color. ​Unfortunately, the private prison industry continues to expand its scope of operations and influence and ​spend millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to weasel their way into new profits streams that include providing ‘restorative’ services that are traditionally performed by community and nonprofit organizations. With positive steps taken at the federal level to end our reliance on private prisons and detention centers, Congress must take the important step to end it once and for all. Now is the time to act.”

A 2016 U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General report concluded that private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults compared with federally run or operated prisons. It’s increasingly recognized that private prisons cut corners, endanger corrections officers and prisoners, and do not save money.

In late January, President Joe Biden issued an executive order barring the Department of Justice from contracting with private prison companies. The executive order did not apply to the Department of Homeland Security or state and local governments. Eighty-one percent of those held in ICE custody are held in detention centers operated by private prison companies. Instead of imprisoning families for seeking asylum, the bill would reinstate family case management programs that are more successful in safely and efficiently guiding families through the asylum process.

“Family detention is traumatizing, ineffective, and unsafe,” continued Rep. Grijalva. “We have a duty to end this inhumane system and instead institute alternatives to detention that are rooted in our values. Family case management programs treat asylum-seeking families with the respect and dignity they deserve, instead of viewing them as a profit source. These are the programs we should be funding instead of writing a blank check to a private prison corporation.”

The bill is endorsed by the Immigration Equality Action Fund, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Consumer Action, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Democracy for America, Grassroots Leadership, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Just Futures Law, The Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, Justice Strategies, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Project, NETWORK Lobby, Mijente, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. 

“Every day, LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants are being horribly mistreated in corporate-run detention facilities that have a financial incentive to provide cheap, substandard living conditions,” said Immigration Equality Action Fund Executive Director, Aaron Morris. “Endangering the health and well-being of queer and HIV-positive refugees who have fled to the U.S. to seek dignity and safety so that a corporation has a better bottom line is indefensible.”  

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