Shares for two big corrections companies took a deep dive Thursday after a report that the Justice Department is moving away from using private prisons, with the eventual goal of no private prisons under its umbrella at all, CNBC reports. Prison companies GEO and Corrections Corporation of America saw more than 40% drops in their share prices after a memo issued by Deputy AG Sally Yates was reported by the Washington Post, with instructions for prison officials to not renew contracts with private operators or to "substantially reduce" what the contracts cover. The end goal: "reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of privately operated prisons," upon which the federal Bureau of Prisons spent $639 million in fiscal 2014, per an Office of the Inspector General report issued this month.
Yates' memo notes the 13 private prisons under the bureau's watch, holding about 12% of the bureau's total prison population, aren't as safe as those run by the feds, don't offer notable cost-savings, and don't have the "same level of correctional services, programs, and resources" as government-run facilities. An in-depth report by Mother Jones in its July/August issue by a journalist who went undercover to work in a private Louisiana prison highlighted some of those issues. The three private companies that run the contracts for the private prisons, which David Shapiro calls a "public shame" in the Chicago Sun-Times, are already expressing discontent with the IG's report, with the president of Management and Training Corporation writing in response that comparing private prisons to federally run ones is like "comparing apples and oranges." (Bernie Sanders is against private prisons.)