U.S. Marshals Service Raises Concerns on Phasing Out Private Jails

Both current and former officials at the U.S. Marshals Service say they’re worried about Biden’s executive order that plans to phase out contracts with private prisons and jails. 

The order could mean that some pretrial detainees are housed hours away from the courthouses where their cases will be heard, and the marshals may have to stop their current work to transport the detainees long distances. 

Retired U.S. Marshals Service executive, Carl Caulk, expressed security concerns, stating, “Transportation is the weakest link in the chain of custody. The longer they’re being transported, the less secure it is.” 

Caulk told NPR that the lack of private contracts may cause problems in areas where county and local jails are overcrowded, or few alternative housing sites exist. 

Caulk named Youngstown, Ohio, Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona and the Southwest border as examples of areas that would be more problematic as a result of this executive order. 

“I think considerations should be given to allowing the Marshals Service either opt out [of the executive order] or at least extend their current arrangements well into the future so they can make other arrangements,” Caulk said. 

Biden discussed reforming the incarceration system shortly after he took office last January, stating that in order “to decrease incarceration levels, we must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the Federal Government’s reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities.” 

Biden highlighted a 2016 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, who determined private prisons were less secure and offered fewer redemptive and education programs to their detainees than their government-operated counterparts. 

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