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Private Prisons in the United States

Twenty-eight states and the federal government incarcerated 121,718 people in private prisons in 2017, representing 8.2% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private facilities has increased 39%, according to data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and The Sentencing Project and presented in our new fact sheet.

States show significant variation in their use of private prisons. For the first time, one state, New Mexico, housed a majority of its prison population in private facilities. But, 22 states do not employ any for-profit prisons.

Among the immigrant detention population, 26,249 people – 73% of the detained population – were confined in privately run facilities in 2017. The privately detained immigrant population grew 442% since 2002.

The public debate about the causes and consequences of mass incarceration often evokes the impact of prison privatization. While the conditions in these facilities and accusations that the industry perpetuates more incarceration are well documented, the number of people in these prisons is dwarfed by the overall prison population and the harm caused by imprisonment generally.

 

The Sentencing Project
1705 DeSales Street NW 8th Floor | Washington, District of Columbia 20036
202-628-0871 | staff@... | endlifeimprisonment.org

The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.