LGBTQ Advocates Welcome Justice Department’s Decision to Stop Use of Private Prisons

The National LGBTQ Task Force is welcoming the decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop using private prisons.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope, reports The Washington Post.

“The fact of the matter is that private prisons don’t compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that,” Yates said.

Russell Roybal, deputy executive director, National LGBTQ Task Force welcoming the news said, “The decision by the Department of Justice to stop using private prisons is a significant breakthrough in the process of radically reforming our criminal justice system. Private prisons have been a complete failure—providing substandard services, overuse of solitary confinement and protective custody, and even more deplorable conditions in an already strained and broken system. A profit motive should never be involved in the decision of whether to incarcerate a human being,”

In the United States, two out of three (about 66 percent) of adults in prison and jail are people of color while only compromising one in three (about 33 percent) of the country’s adult population. In the country’s juvenile justice facilities one out of five are LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth—and of those 85 percent are LGBTQ youth of color. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of LGBTQ people in prison and jails report experiencing discrimination and verbal harassment report experiencing discrimination, verbal harassment, and physical assault by prison staff.

“Prisons in general are not safe for anyone, and are particularly unsafe for LGBTQ people, who face higher rates of physical and sexual harassment and abuse in incarceration. This is especially true for LGBTQ people of color, low-income LGBTQ people, and transgender and gender nonconforming people who are disproportionately represented in the criminal legal system, including in incarceration. As we work toward a criminal justice system that is more about justice than about needlessly criminalizing people — and we see incarceration levels decrease as a result — we also need to ensure that LGBTQ people have the services and support they need when they return to their communities. That’s why the National LGBTQ Task Force has been working with the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and others to make services and supports more easily available to members of our community who are returning home from incarceration,” said Roybal.

The National LGBTQ Task Force, through its Criminal and Economic Justice Project, advocates for criminal justice reform, including improving conditions for LGBTQ people who are incarcerated and releasing incarcerated people who are serving sentences in unsafe conditions. The advocacy organization has also been working with the Administration to reform the immigration system. The Department of Justice’s announcement will impact many people who are incarcerated for immigration-related offenses and are being held in DOJ facilities.