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Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to abolish a multibillion-dollar industry: private prisons.
The plan is just the latest in what’s increasingly becoming one of the biggest issues of the Democratic primaries: criminal justice. Hillary Clinton recently released an anti-drug plan that tries to shift drug policies away from punitive criminal justice measures to public health programs, and Sanders and Martin O’Malley released plans for addressing racial justice issues.
Still, Sanders’s plan by itself probably wouldn’t do much to reduce mass incarceration. While private prisons are a favorite target of liberals like Sanders, they house a small percentage of convicted criminals. The most effective part of Sanders’s plan, in fact, may be a provision that has nothing to do with private prisons at all.
Sanders’s plan would ban private prisons within a few years
The bill takes six main steps, according to Sanders’s office:
- Prohibit local, state, and federal contracts for privately run prisons within two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension if deemed necessary by the US attorney general.
- Eliminate private immigration detention centers within two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension if deemed necessary by the US attorney general.
- End the requirement that the federal government maintain a certain number of beds for immigrant detainees.
- Stop the detention of immigrant families caught at the border, and increase monitoring of immigrant detention facilities to ensure more humane conditions.
- Increase oversight to stop private companies from overcharging inmates for services like banking and phone calls.
- Reinstate the federal parole system.
Why Sanders introduced the plan