After seven years of promises, President Barack Obama again vowed last week to close Guantanamo Bay, but for Hillary Clinton, if elected president, another prison-closure issue may loom larger — and be as tough to solve: the growth of for-profit privately run prisons across the United States.
The for-profit prison industry is estimated at as much as $7 billion to $8 billion, and both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., have spoken forcefully — Sanders even more so than Clinton — about a desire to phase out private prisons as part of the U.S. criminal system.
"In my view, corporations should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars," Sanders recently said. "Criminal justice and public safety are, without a doubt, the responsibility of the citizens of our country, not private corporations, and they should be carried out by those who answer to voters, not those who answer to investors."
On the campaign trail, Clinton said that "we should end private prisons and private detention centers."
But it's tough talk that could prove difficult to enact as presidential policy, involving issues of federalism, since many of the private prisons around the country are under state and local contracts, and legislative efforts to change current laws that would be opposed by the status quo support for private prisons.