Attorney General Jeff Sessions is wasting no time making changes at the U.S. Department of Justice while simultaneously making sure there will be enough prisons to hold all the prisoners in the United States’ future. On Thursday he announced plans to rescind an Obama-era directive to scale back the use of private prisons.
Politico reports that Sessions wrote a directive that was sent to the acting Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Thomas Kane that said, “I hereby rescind the memorandum dated August 18, 2016, sent to you by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, entitled ‘Reducing our Use of Private Prisons.’ The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
The new directive withdraws Yates’ memo, which had asked the prisons bureau to “substantially reduce” its use of private prisons “in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the Bureau’s inmate population.”
“Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities,” Yates wrote in her memo.
She highlighted that private prisons no longer “provide the same level of correctional services, programs and resources.”
“They do not save substantially on costs, and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” she added.
A Justice Department spokesman wrote a statement explaining that Sessions’ new instructions would give the Federal Bureau of Prisons greater “flexibility.”
“This will restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs,” the spokesman said in his statement.
The stock prices of leading companies in the private prison industry were adversely affected when the Department of Homeland Security, under President Barack Obama, moved to wind down the use of private detention facilities, Politico reports.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement that Thursday’s move was a “reward” to private prison companies who had “invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
“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. We must end private prisons in America,” Sanders said in his statement.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker also spoke out against the decision, saying it “is a major setback to restoring justice in our criminal-justice system.”
“Attaching a profit motive to imprisonment undermines the cause of justice and fairness,” Booker said. “This damaging decision cuts against our deeply held values of justice and liberty, while creating vast wealth for private prison operators.”
Two things I want to draw your attention to from this: “impaired the bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system” and “Trump just opened the floodgates for private prisons to make huge profits by building more prisons and keeping even more Americans in jail.”
They go hand in hand.
Think about all the divisions of our government that can make use of a private detention center, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the prison system.
You have municipalities using city police departments to issue fare-evasion citations, which are a quick and easy way to get people into the criminal-justice system and check their names against various databases to determine if they belong in the prison pipeline system.
You have a private prison industry that profits from having people in jail.
You have a U.S. attorney general who believes that instead of being able to keep crime down, he will just fill up as many prisons as there are spaces available.
All of the pieces are connected, but let’s continue to lie to ourselves and pretend that these are all just huge coincidences.
Because, again, it helps us to sleep better at night.