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The Department of Justice's
Reliance on Private Contractors for Prison Services

Report No. 01-16
July 31, 2001
Office of the Inspector General


The housing of federal prisoners is the responsibility of three Department of Justice (DOJ) components: the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The USMS detains individuals awaiting trial for federal crimes. The INS detains persons charged with violating immigration laws, entering the country illegally, or awaiting deportation. The BOP maintains custody of persons convicted of crimes and sentenced to federal prison.

All three components obtain space for prisoners through contracts with private contractors and through intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) with state and local governments. In some cases, the space and services obtained through an IGA are actually provided by a private contractor of the state or local government entity. Private prison contractors provide DOJ with about 18,000 beds each day.

Most private prison space is provided to the DOJ by three corporations: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC), and Cornell Corrections. The DOJ's reliance on a few large contractors for jail and prison space raises concerns about the impact on the DOJ if one of these contractors is unable to continue to operate its facilities across the country for an extended period.

Our review objectives were to determine: (1) the extent to which the DOJ relies on private contractors for prison services, and (2) the status of contingency planning in the event a contractor is unable to carry out its contractual obligations. See Appendix I for our scope and methodology.