Senator Karen Carter Peterson Introduces Bill to End Private Prisons in Louisiana

Photo Credit: InmateAid

Earlier this week, Louisiana State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson introduced a bill that, if passed, would end private prison use in Louisiana.

SB16 would ban any local or state government from entering into or renewing a contract with private, for-profit prisons beginning January 2022. The bill also ensures that no Louisiana inmate could be housed in a for-profit prison facility after January 2028.

“Our criminal justice system is broken. For too long, we’ve allowed corporations to line their pockets and make millions off the backs of incarcerated people,” Peterson said. “For-profit prisons regularly sacrifice safety, exploit prisoners, and lobby for harsher sentencing laws – all to help their bottom line.”

In spite of recent reforms, Louisiana still incarcerates more people per capita than any other state in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 680 people in prison in Louisiana for every 100,000 residents. While that number is decreasing thanks to criminal justice reforms signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2017, there is still a lot of work to do.

“Louisiana has the highest percentage of our citizens behind bars in the world, and a disproportionate amount are people of color,” Peterson said. “We need a complete overhaul to reform the system and end this cycle that tears apart our communities. That begins with making sure the corrections system is about justice and redemption, not private profiteering off punishment.”

The state-level bill mimics an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in January that phased out the federal Department of Justice’s use of private prisons. At the time, many proponents of decarceration efforts noted that the federal order was very limited, and would result in zero change for most states, including Louisiana.

There are currently two private prison facilities active in Louisiana: the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder and the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield. Both are operated under state agreements. If SB16 becomes law, both would be forced to close or be operated as public facilities by 2028.

“As part of our mission to end mass incarceration in New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) supports the proposed Senate Bill No. 16 that would terminate the use of private prisons and for-profit contractors across all of Louisiana,” the grassroots organization said when asked about the bill. “As we work towards a more equitable Louisiana, elected officials must help us build a future that prioritizes public safety over the finances of the for-profit prison industry.

You can read the full text of the bill here.

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