In November 2013, Grassroots Leadership released Locked Up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry, a groundbreaking report examining states’ practice of transferring incarcerated people en masse from their home states to private, for-profit prisons across the United States. This brief is an update on the status of interstate state prisoner transfers to private prisons in the U.S. as of December 2015.
Since 2013 the same four states — Vermont, California, Idaho, and Hawaii — continue to house a portion of their prisoners in private prisons out of state. And, a fifth state, Arkansas has also opted to send prisoners to a private lockup across state lines.
This brief includes updates from the four states highlighted in the 2013 Locked Up and Shipped Away report and new information from Arkansas, which has joined the list of states currently housing prisoners in a private facility across state lines. Three additional states — West Virginia, Washington, and North Dakota — either have considered or are potentially considering shipping prisoners to out-of-state, for-profit prisons.
The report concludes that while decreasing the number of prisoners sent to for-profit prisons across state lines is a step in the right direction, work remains to reduce incarceration and end the practice entirely. States should also avoid building new prisons, utilizing beds in local jails, or contracting with public facilities in other jurisdictions as strategies for addressing prison overcrowding. These strategies do not aim to reduce reliance on criminalization and incarceration and they perpetuate the mass incarceration crisis, which disproportionately harms the poor and communities of color. States across the country should prioritize policy changes that reduce incarceration, cut ties with prison profiteers, and support and strengthen families and communities.