Buddy Carter and Congressional Republicans Protest Private Prison Closure in South Georgia

Representative Buddy Carter was joined by many of Georgia’s congressional Republicans in deriding the Bureau of Prisons’ decision to shut down a private prison in Folkston. Carter, Senator David Perdue and Representatives Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Austin Scott, Doug Collins, Jody Hice, and Rick Allen all criticized the BOP and the Department of Justice for rescinding the contract for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility held by The Geo Group, a Florida-based company that manages private prisons. The contract was supposed to last until 2018.

Here is an excerpt from the letter that Carter and the Georgia Republicans wrote to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about the contract termination:

The D. Ray James Correctional Facility houses criminal aliens who were convicted of federal crimes and are awaiting deportation. The GEO Group was awarded a four-year contract on October 1, 2010, and BOP has had three options to extend the contract for two years. Based on the strong performance of the GEO Group and the valuable role DRJ plays in the prison system, BOP extended the contract on the same terms from September 30, 2014 to September 30, 2016. On August 18, 2016, again on account of high performance, the GEO Group was formally notified by BOP that its contract had been extended for an additional two years. The following day, without explanation or factual basis, BOP rescinded the extension…We urge you and BOP to honor the two-year contract extension granted to the GEO Group on August 18, 2016. Maintaining the extension of the contract is important for the citizens of Georgia, for our immigration laws, and for U.S. taxpayers, who expect and deserve continued strong performance from facilities funded with their hard-earned money.

The D. Ray James closure is part of a wider plan by the BOP to end the use of private prisons at the federal level. Yates announced the plan in August, saying that private prisons are less-safe and less-effective than government-run facilities. In a memorandum, she instructed BOP officials to not renew contracts with private providers. However, the memorandum is restricted to the contracts for 13 federal prisons that only house about 22,000 prisoners. The vast majority of prisoners in the United States are in state-run prisons outside the oversight of the BOP.

For what it’s worth, there are some pretty sordid stories that came out of the DOJ’s internal audit of the BOP private prisons, including a deadly riot by prisoners in a Mississippi facility who were angry about the low quality of food and medical care they were receiving. According to the report, D. Ray James had the highest rate of disruptive incidents and the second highest rate of inmate assaults on staff. It also notes that the prison made significant improvements in decreasing the number of security-related incidents between 2012 and 2014. In FY 2014, there was only one assault at D. Ray James.

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