By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2016

The Homeland Security Department may stop using private jails to detain illegal immigrants, Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday, taking his cue from the Justice Department, which announced earlier this month it was phasing out the use of private prisons.

Officials had downplayed the chances just a couple weeks ago, saying their mission is markedly different than the federal prisons and so using private bed space makes sense.

But Mr. Johnson now appears to be open to the idea. He said in a statement he has asked a task force to look whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement “should move in the same direction.”

He set a Nov. 30 deadline for reporting back, suggesting he wants to make a decision after the election, when his boss, President Obama, will be a lame duck.

Liberal activists have increasingly protested private prisons, saying the corporations that run them lobby for stiffer prison sentences, aren’t transparent in their own dealings, and skew the normal operations of the criminal justice system.

Immigrant-rights activists have issued many of the same complaints about the private facilities that hold illegal immigrants.

But ICE officials said there are major differences in the systems.

Where federal prisoners are often held for years, immigration system detainees are usually only held for weeks or months.

In announcing their shift away from private prisons, Justice Department officials, said they thought the corporations didn’t put enough emphasis on rehabilitation. ICE officials, though, said immigration detention is not about punishment or rehabilitation, but rather an interim step ahead of deportation.