Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to Congress today that would ban private prisons and jails in the United States, USA Today reports. Sanders—who has called the size of the US prison population an "international disgrace"—says the goal of for-profit prisons and jails is to increase the number of people locked up, according to the Washington Post. “The profit motivation of private companies running prisons works at cross purposes with the goals of criminal justice,” the senator says, per USA Today. Legislation cosponsor Rep. Keith Ellison says for-profit prisons spend millions every year pushing for stricter sentencing laws. “Incarceration should be about rehabilitation and public safety, not profit,” he says.
The "Justice Is Not for Sale Act" introduced by Sanders today would ban the government from working with private-prison companies, bring back the federal parole system eliminated in the '80s, and end quotas on how many immigrants are held in detention, USA Today reports. According to the Christian Science Monitor, private prisons are a $5 billion a year industry with 19% of federal prisoners currently being held in one, and banning them could face an uphill battle in Congress. The Post reports the legislation could be an attempt on Sanders' part to appeal to African-American and Latino voters. Democratic challengers Clinton and O'Malley have also come out against private prisons.