We have to give President Joe Biden credit. One week in office and he’s making moves towards establishing a government that defends the kind of values most of us support, the same ones the previous administration was outright hostile towards. You know, values such as racial equity, believing in science, and most recently, the proliferation of for-profit prisons in the U.S.
Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday instructing the Department of Justice to not renew the contracts it has with privately owned prisons, reports ABC News.
It’s another action towards the long road of at least returning to the pre-Trump era of governance, as the DOJ under the Obama administration had initiated a policy to phase out contracts with private prison companies—a policy that the Trump administration rescinded when it took office. A 2016 report from the Justice Department inspector general found that private prisons have more safety and security issues, like assault and use of force incidents, as compared to government-run facilities.
“This is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarcerated — incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning, in my view, to my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system,” Biden said at the signing of the order on Tuesday.
But Biden’s indication that this is only the beginning of his actions to address the profit-building behind increased mass incarceration in America (the number of people held in private prisons has risen by nearly 50 percent since 2000) is a necessary one, as the executive order will barely make a dent in the numbers of people imprisoned by corporations.
According to Mother Jones, the phasing out of the contracts ordered by Biden will end private prisons that currently hold only about nine percent—roughly, 14,000 people—of the federal prison population.
Biden’s executive order also does not tackle a major prong of the profitable incarceration business—and one he promised to address during his campaign for president: for-profit immigrant detention centers.
According to U.S. News & World Report, over 55,000 people were being held in immigrant detention centers in 2019 and at least 70 percent of all immigrant detainees are held in federal prisons. America has the world’s largest immigrant detention system—and in general, imprisons more people than any other nation. Black people and other people of color are overrepresented in America’s prison population.