Twenty-eight states and the federal government use private prisons to incarcerate 126,272 people, an increase of 45% from a population of 87,369 in 2000. This figure represents 8% of the total U.S. prison population, according to 2015 data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and presented in our new fact sheet.
States show significant variation in their use of private prisons, ranging from New Mexico and Montana with over 40% of their prison population in private facilities to 19 states, including New York and Illinois, with no private prisons. The federal prison system leads the nation with the largest number of people ― 34,934 ― incarcerated in private prisons. This number is expected to increase further as a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to renew the Department of Justice’s commitment to private facilities.
For more analysis on prison privatization please also check out commentary from Nicole Porter, Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project, published in Newsday earlier this summer. Nicole argues that the “prison population decline in recent years provides an opportunity for new thinking about advancing justice and ensuring safety. Streamlining this country’s prison infrastructure, including terminating wasteful private prison contracts, should be an important component of this new strategy.”