After Sally Yates, deputy attorney general for the DOJ, submitted a memorandum to the Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding reducing the use of private prisons, news headlines reported the end federal private prisons and reports of the collapse of private prisons stocks soon followed. Despite these reports, the end of private prisons is not in the immediate future, says Neil L. Sobol, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law.

“The DOJ memo envisions a slow phase-out period by recommending that when a private prison contract comes up for renewal, the Bureau of Prisons ‘should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline in the Bureau’s inmate population,’” Sobol explains. “Significantly, the memo’s directive applies to only about 11 percent of federal prisoners and less than 13 percent of federal prisons. Moreover, the directive does not apply to the private operation of half-way houses, immigration detention centers, and state prisons.”

Sobol has written about the problems with outsourcing of services in the criminal justice arena in Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons, 75 Maryland Law Review 486 (2016), available at