GENEVA (4 February 2021) – A group of UN experts* welcomed the US decision to stop using privately run federal prisons and urged the Biden Administration to also end outsourcing of all detention centres, including those holding migrants and asylum seekers.
“Ending the reliance on privately run prisons for federal prisoners is an encouraging step, but further action is needed,” said Jelena Aparac, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.
“Given the magnitude of mass incarceration in the US, this decision will benefit only the very small percentage of federal prisoners who are held in private prisons and specifically excludes vulnerable people held in migrant and asylum centres who are at particular risk of serious human rights violations.”
The US Department of Justice was ordered on 26 January not to renew its contracts with 12 privately operated federal criminal detention facilities. In 2019, there were about 116,000 prisoners held in privately operated facilities, representing about seven per cent of all state prisoners and 16 per cent of federal prisoners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The experts urged the US to “eliminate all for-profit detention facilities”, saying that “detainees should not become units for profit”.
The Working Group has regularly expressed concern over the outsourcing of inherent State functions, including prisons and detention facilities. The issues of inadequate standards and grave human rights violations in migrant detention centres have been raised repeatedly with the US government and its contractors on involuntary sterilisations, solitary confinements and violations of the right to healthcare.
(*) The Working Group on the use of mercenaries is comprised of five independent experts: Jelena Aparac (Chair-Rapporteur), Lilian Bobea, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel, and Sorcha MacLeod
The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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