The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Grassroots Leadership Applauds "Justice is Not For Sale" Act to End For-profit Prisons

Bill makes major strides to curb mass incarceration and immigrant detention


Grassroots Leadership today applauded the introduction of the Justice is Not for Sale Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.). The bill bars the federal government and state and local jurisdictions from contracting with private corporations to run prisons and detention facilities, reinstates the federal parole system, and makes several changes immigration detention law.

"As long as there are corporate financial incentives for locking people up and keeping them behind bars, reforming drug laws and other sentencing policies will produce limited results for meaningfully decreasing the astronomical rate of incarceration in this country," said Kymberlie Quong Charles, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots Leadership. "Because of their powerful influence, private prison companies are already cleverly creating new ways to reap profits in the face of a leveling of state prison populations. Senator Sanders' proposal to ban these companies at the federal, state, and local level is a major stride toward a justice system that is obliged to put human beings over private interests."

The Justice is Not for Sale Act also makes major strides towards reducing the mass detention of immigrants in the United States, including ending the detention of immigrant families and undoing the the immigration detention bed quota mandated by Congress.

"The passing of Justice is Not for Sale Act would be a great step towards ending the suffering of immigrants by making sure that our immigration system is not serving the interests of private prison corporations," said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership. "We applaud this effort by Senator Sanders and his colleagues, and we note that the Obama administration could and should act today to end the detention of the Central American refugee mothers and children that are now being held in family detention centers. The Obama Administration has the power to not only close these shameful detention camps but also to end the practice of forcing them to wear ankle shackles, a policy that benefits the same private prison corporations. Sen. Sanders is showing leadership in introducing this bill, but the Obama Administration could act on many of these issues today."

While the bill bans private prison corporations from operating federal, state, and local prisons, jails, and detention centers, it does not prohibit private companies from moving into new markets including mental health facilities and treatment centers. Advocates have criticized these moves in recent years, noting that private prison companies are bringing the same punitive model to a traditionally restorative and non-profit sector.

"The Justice is Not for Sale Act makes great strides in ending for-profit incarceration and detention, but more will need to be done," said Cate Graziani, Mental Health Campaigns coordinator for Grassroots Leadership. "By exempting treatment centers, halfway houses, restitution centers, mental health facilities and alcohol or drug rehabilitation centers, the legislation could allow the same failed private prison companies to move into new markets -- an alarming shift that is already underway. Further legislation will need to address this growing and troubling trend."

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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.

At Grassroots Leadership, we believe no one should profit from the imprisonment of human beings. We live in the most incarcerated society in the history of the world. Every day we confront a prison industry that preys on pain because our addiction to locking people up dehumanizes all of us.