Today, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, rescinded the Obama administration’s order to phase out the use of private prison contracts in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). This order was rescinded on Feb. 21st but was not made public until 2 days later.
The Obama administration made this policy after former deputy AG, Sally Yates, determined that there were more frequent reports of violence at for-profit run prisons than public prisons. The Office of Inspector General’s report , that Yates claims were based on, also stated that ” the contract prisons confiscated eight times as many contraband cell phones annually on average as the BOP institutions…Contract prisons also had higher rates of assaults, both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff.” In addition to this, Private Prisons are more likely to put inmates in solitary confinement because they don’t have enough room to put them with the general population; however, despite overwhelming evidence incarcerating people for- profit is not beneficial in any manner. Jeff Sessions stands by his decision. He stated that Yate’s order, “changed the long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Sessions went on to say,
“Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach,”
Additionally, a Justice Department Spokesperson stated that “This will restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs.” The Director of the National’s Prison Project, David Fathi, for ACLU responded to this statement. He said:
“Handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse and neglect.”
“The memo from Attorney General Sessions ignores this fact. Additionally, this memo is a further sign that under President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, the United States may be headed for a new federal prison boom, fueled in part by criminal prosecutions of immigrants for entering the country.”
The ACLU is exactly right. Private Prisons distort the original goal of prisons (which is rehabilitation) and also disproportionally affects people of color.
This is why we shouldn’t be surprised the Trump Administration has made this decision. According to USA Today, “GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators, donated $250,000 to support Trump’s inaugural festivities.” Why would they do this ? A large portion of prisoners in for-profit prisons are undocumented immigrants detained. Specifically, “About 65% of Homeland Security detainees last year were held in privately run facilities.”
For-Profit Prison companies were eager to support Trump because of his far-right stance on immigration, thus meaning more people they could use to fill up their prisons. President Trump did not let them down when he issued the Executive Order that, in short, gave ICE more authority to deport undocumented immigrants. USA Today reported that “CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told investors that his Nashville, Tenn., company expected a boost in business.”
And a boost in business private companies received.
Share prices in Private Prisons stocks decreased drastically in August after President Obama issued the order, however, since Trump was elected in November, share prices have skyrocketed. Even more horrifying, Michael Kodesch of Canaccord Geunity, stated that “stocks continued their upward climb when the Senate confirmed immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions as attorney general on the belief that he would overturn the Yates order.”
Private Prisons are dangerous. We are likely to see a rise in mass incarceration due to this new policy that backs the desires of for-profit prisons than the American people. The prisons won’t be filled with White people, but instead undocumented immigrants and other persons of color. This is just another example of how the United States’ President bases his decisions off of political capitol at play and not what is in the best interest of the American people; nevertheless, it is our job as activist or ordinary citizens to continue to keep the President in check and to always follow the money.