U.S. Prisons Reaching Capacity Due to Growing Number of Immigrants Jailed, Prison Bureau Warns

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons expressed fears that its low-security correctional facilities could run out of space for inmates due to a rise in convicted immigrants being jailed as part of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policies.

A redacted request from the bureau seeking to extend a contract with a private prison operator to run the Texas-based Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility shines a light on the situation.

The filing, which was likely submitted last month, asserts that the 32 low-security facilities the prison bureau operates are unable to take on more inmates due to the "overall population" being expected to "increase significantly" as a result of Attorney General Jeff Session's order that all immigrants caught illegally crossing the border face mandatory charges.

The Santa Barbara County Detention and Correctional Facility on June 12, 2005, in Santa Barbara, California. The Federal Bureau of Prisons warned that its correctional facilities are reaching capacity in a redacted contract request. David McNew/Getty

While the filing does not specifically refer to the prosecution of immigrants, it asserts that its "overall population is anticipated to significantly increase because of the Attorney General's April 11, 2017 and May 10, 2017 guidance regarding the aggressive prosecution of certain crimes."

On April 11, Sessions announced his "zero-tolerance" policy for criminal illegal entry into the U.S., which prohibited both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry into the country.

As part of that policy, Sessions issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors directing them to prioritize the prosecution of "certain criminal immigration offenses," in addition to directing U.S. Attorney's Offices along the Southwest Border to "adopt a policy to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals" involving illegal entry or attempted illegal entry "to the extent practicable."

On May 10, 2017, Sessions issued what has become known as the "Sessions memorandum," setting out the Department of Justice charging and sentencing policy under the Trump administration, including the demand that prosecutors "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense."

The prison bureau warns in the filing that as of September 30, 2018, it would have been "due to lose its ability to house the approximately 1,670 criminal aliens serving sentences and awaiting deportation" at the Dalby Correctional Facility in Post, Texas.

It also said that "absorbing" the more than 1,600 immigrant inmates would not be "feasible," asserting that it was already struggling with "overcrowding."

According to the U.S. government's Federal Business Opportunities website, the bureau's requested contract was awarded on September 28, 2018, just days before the bureau's September 30 deadline due to "unusual and compelling urgency."