Attorney General Jeff Sessions has withdrawn an Obama-era Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons.
The Bureau of Prisons currently has 12 private prison contracts that hold around 21,000 inmates. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has already concluded that private prisons compared “poorly” to BOP prisons. Her analysis followed a damning report from the Justice Department’s inspector general which found that privately run facilities were more dangerous than those run by BOP.
The two largest private prison companies in the U.S. have been salivating at the prospect of a new Attorney General, telling anyone who will listen that they have room to accommodate increased use of their prisons by federal or state and local authorities.
Executives at GEO Group emphasized that their company has a total of 5,000 spots in its prisons that are presently either unused or underutilized. OreCivic, formerly known as CCA, has told investors that the company has nine idle prisons that can hold a total of 8,700 people. Moreover, CoreCivic is already holding more detained immigrants for the federal government than they had previously anticipated, and is looking at even more robust financial quarters, thanks to the upcoming "military operation" roundup of immigrants promised by Trump.
David C. Fathi, who directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that giving for-profit companies control of prisons is “a recipe for abuse and neglect.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the Sessions memo was an example of “how our corrupt political and campaign finance system” works.
“Private prison companies invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and today they got their reward: the Trump administration reversed the Obama administration’s directive to reduce the Justice Department’s use of private prisons,” Sanders said in a statement. “At a time when we already have more people behind bars than any other country, Trump just opened the floodgates for private prisons to make huge profits by building more prisons and keeping even more Americans in jail.”