June 21 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan Friday to ban private U.S. prisons and detention centers and hold current contractors more accountable for prisoner treatment and conditions.
Private prisons housed 8.5 percent of inmates around the United States in 2016, according to The Sentencing Project. Some have criticized the Trump administration for increasingly using private prisons, particularly for illegal immigrants, after former President Barack Obama began to phase them out federally.
Warren said in her plan private prisons have created a problem by making it profitable to incarcerate people, with an emphasis on making money instead of housing inmates.
"The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe - not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit," Warren wrote. "I'm proposing my plan to root out once and for all the profit incentives perverting our criminal and immigration systems."
The proposal by the two-term Massachusetts senator would end contracts with private prisons and encourage state and local facilities to also end their affiliations, stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services and increase oversight, transparency and enforcement in the industry.
"Washington hands billions over to corporations profiting off of inhumane detention and incarceration policies while ignoring the families that are destroyed in the process," Warren said. "We need to call that out for what it is: corruption. Incarcerating and detaining millions for profit doesn't keep us safe. It's time to do better."
Warren did not say what would happen to prisoners housed in private facilities or what the strategy might ultimately cost. She also criticized former White House chief of staff John Kelly for taking a job with the board of a company that received federal funds for housing migrant children at private centers.
The New York Times reported last year migrants in the private inmate population climbed to 12,800 between 2017 and 2018.