Here’s how many prisoners are held in private prisons in Virginia
With the 2020 elections coming up, private prisons in the U.S. have been a highly debated and publicized topic. A private prison is a place where prisoners are imprisoned by a third party that is contracted by a government agency. There are a total of 51 private prisons in operation in 16 different U.S. states and the prisoner population in those private prisons has grown by 47% from 2000 to 2016 alone, according to the sentencingproject.org.
According to odu.edu, there is only one privately operated prison in Virginia, the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, which held 1,570 prisoners in 2014. The Lawrenceville facility is operated by the GEO Group, an international corporation that manages prisons in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. The GEO Group operates under a contract with the Commonwealth of Virginia and typically houses long-term prisoners who have not exhibited significant behavior problems.
According to an analysis done by Summit Defense, a criminal defense law firm in California, 4.2% of Virginia’s prison population is held in private prisons or in this case, the one private prison in Virginia. This is a small percentage in comparison to other states like Montana with the highest percentage of prisoners in private prisons at 38.1% and Hawaii with 28.5%.
When looking at these numbers based on population in the state, things change a bit. Per 10,000 residents in Virginia, 18.3% of its population are held in private prisons.
Oklahoma had the highest number of prisoners held in private prisons per 10,000 residents.
Although Virginia only has one private prison with a capacity of 1,536, it has 38 state prisons that can hold up to 28,799 prisoners at a time. Florida and Texas have the highest number of private prisons with a total 7 each, compared to their 33 and 55 state prisons. Florida leads the board again with the highest estimated prisoner capacity in its private prisons with 9,945, followed by Arizona with 8,288.
The Justice Department said in 2016 that it will end the use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government, according to the Washington Post. As election season continues, it is unclear what will happen with private prisons. Will they stay or will they go?