The Justice Department says it's phasing out its relationships with private prisons after a recent audit found the private facilities have more safety and security problems than ones run by the government.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has instructed federal officials to significantly reduce reliance on private prisons.
As of December 2015, more than 22,000 federal inmates — or about 12 percent of the total — were in private facilities. That's according to report this month from the Justice Department's inspector general.
The government began to rely on private prisons in the late 1990s due to overcrowding.
In her memo Thursday, Yates says the decline in the prison population over the past three years contributes to the decision not to renew private prison contracts.