Jeff Sessions cancels Obama’s plan to reduce private prisons
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has withdrawn an Obama administration directive that set a goal to decrease the use of private prisons by the Department of Justice. Sessions said in a statement that the policy, put forth by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in August 2016, “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
Yates, who was fired by President Trump after refusing to enforce his travel ban, had issued the memo after an audit conducted by the DOJ found that privately run federal prisons had more safety and security problems than those run by the government.
“Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period,” Yates wrote, “but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities.”
Sessions’ reversal is hardly surprising: President Trump has made clear he views private prisons favorably, and Sessions himself has an intimate relationship with the industry and a record of supporting it. On the campaign trail, candidate Hillary Clinton spoke of the nation’s need to phase out its dependency on private prisons and she said she had stopped taking contributions from related interests.
The problem with the private prison industry is that corporations profit when they build more prisons, so the industry is incentivized to lock up as many people as possible. Unsurprisingly, minorities are disproportionately placed in private prisons. This retraction of Obama’s move to curb the prison-industrial complex is yet another way Trump’s administration is endorsing racism and trying to limit the freedom of the American people.