The Justice Department will once again use private prisons to house federal inmates, reversing an Obama-era directive to stop using the facilities, which officials had then deemed less safe and less effective than those run by the government.
In a one-paragraph memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the previous directive to the Bureau of Prisons to either reduce or decline to renew private-prison contracts as they came due.
“The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system,” Sessions wrote. “Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach.”
The directive marks a significant policy shift from the previous administration, although the practical impact might be somewhat muted.
Most inmates are housed in state prisons, rather than federal ones. Even when the Justice Department announced it would no longer use private facilities, the action only affected 13 prisons, housing a little more than 22,000 inmates. The original directive also did not apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are technically in the federal system but not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Private-prison operators already stood to benefit substantially from President Trump’s aggressive measures to detain and deport illegal immigrants.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Bureau of Prisons had 12 privately run facilities, holding 21,366 inmates. They are run by three private-prison operators: Management and Training Corporation, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, which used to be known as Corrections Corporation of America.
Private prisons have faced significant criticism in recent years from civil liberties advocates and others. Sally Yates, who served as deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, did not mince words in August when she ordered the Department of Justice — of which the Bureau of Prisons is a part — to end the use of private prisons entirely by phasing them out over time.Read More...
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