On Thursday, U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions withdrew a memo that had the goal of reducing and eventually ending the use of private prisons.
Sessions wrote in a one-page memo to the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons that the Obama-era memo “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
A spokesman for the Justice Department said that the attorney general’s memo “directs the Bureau of Prisons to return to its previous approach to the use of private prisons,” which would “restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs.”
The Bureau of Prisons currently runs 12 private prisons that hold roughly 21,000 inmates. Former attorney general Sally Yates had said that private prisons compared “poorly” to BOP prisons. Yates’ memo followed a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that found just how poorly private facilities are run.
According to the Huffington Post, the ramifications of Sessions’ memo are already being felt.
“The two largest private prison companies have told investors that they have room to accommodate increased use of their prisons by federal or state and local authorities. On an earnings call with stock analysts this week, 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.”
Commenting on Mr. Sessions’ memo, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that this is 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. 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.”