U.S Justice Department to end federal contracts with private prisons
In his first days in office, President Biden has been busy recalling regulations set by the Trump administration. Yesterday, Biden ordered the Department of Justice to not renew housing contracts with private prisons, effectively severing the U.S. reliance on privatization. Here is a quick roundup of President Biden’s latest executive measures.
President Biden Terminates Federal Private Prison Contracts
The U.S. war on crime during the late 80’s and 90’s included the hallmark of private prisons. The U.S. contracted with private prisons to house federal prisoners. A billion-dollar industry, private prisons are paid with taxpayer money, and have often been criticized for dehumanizing inmate conditions, and poor training for staff personnel.
However, the use of private prisons has come to an end, thanks to President Biden’s Tuesday executive order. Apart of a broad criminal justice reform, a senior administration official revealed the following regarding the executive order:
“Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and community, while private prisons profiteer off federal prisoners and have been found by the Department of Justice’s own inspector general to be less safe and secure…”
According to the executive order, Biden directs the attorney general to not review any DOJ contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. The administrative official has not confirmed how much money will be saved, but stated that cost savings were “not the motivating factor”.
Despite being cited as an advocate for privatized prisons, then-presidential elect Biden noted the nationwide protests over police brutality over this last summer, noting George Floyd as a wake-up call for reform. Specifically, Biden then called for a reform to America’s prison system, and vowed to undo the damage caused if elected. As he stated:
“‘I can’t breathe.’ It’s a wake-up call for our nation, for all of us… It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words—they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago. But it’s time to listen to these words, understand them, and respond to them with real action.”
Under the Trump administration, the U.S’ relied on private prisons heavily. This reliance even included housing undocumented immigrants and those who sought out asylum.
President Biden commented on the executive order, stating this:
“We must change now…I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”
Biden’s order will revert the DOJ back to the same position it held at the end of the Obama administration regarding private prisons. As of this post, there are more than 14,000 federal inmates in private prisons. There are nearly 152,000 federal inmates currently incarcerated at either private or public prisons.
The Response From Private Prisons
GEO Group, a private entity that operates private prisons, stands opposed to the executive order. A spokesperson for the group commented the following:
“Given the steps the BOP had already announced, today’s Executive Order merely represents a political statement, which could carry serious negative unintended consequences, including the loss of hundreds of jobs and negative economic impact for the communities where our facilities are located, which are already struggling economically due to the COVID pandemic…”
A Call for More Reform
However, some advocates for reform are currently unhappy with the executive order. Rashad Robinson, president of the Color of Change organization, showed disappointment that policing and law enforcement reform was not addressed within the executive order.
“President Biden’s executive orders to not review contracts with for-profit prisons and to investigate housing discrimination wrought by Trump administration policies provide important steps forward, but do not go far enough…”
Aside from curbing the reliance of private prisons, new orders are expected to address housing discrimination, a recommitment to respecting tribal sovereignty, and a call to reject discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities over the COVID pandemic.
Biden has directed the Department of Housing (“HUD”) to take steps to promote equitable housing policies. In an administration memo, Biden calls for HUD to examine the effects of Trump’s regulatory actions that may have undermined fair housing laws. This comes after Trump’s administration rolled back Obama-era rules that required communities seeking HUD funding to document patterns of racial bias.
Today, President Biden will take action to tackle climate crisis at home and abroad. During his campaign, President Biden promised to be aggressive in addressing climate change, including rejoining the Paris Agreement, and review standards that relate to air, water and communities.
Additionally, President Biden revoked the Keystone XL pipeline permit—a 1,200 mile pipeline system that carries crude oil that cuts through indigenous lands.
Overall, President Biden has been very busy signing executive orders. Last Monday, Biden signed an order reversing the Trump-era policy that largely barred transgender people from serving in the military. Last week, he also signed an order reversing Trump’s ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim and African countries.
On January 28th, President Biden is expected to take more actions. Obamacare marketplaces are set to reopen, abortion funding restrictions are expected to be lifted, the “Remain in Mexico” asylum program is set to end. Additionally a national taskforce to reunite migrant families separated at the border is expected to be put into effect as well.
With new changes coming our way, it is key to stay current on how the laws are changing. Tomorrow, the Informed Arizonan Blog will discuss what new laws may go into effect during 2021 regarding Arizona’s criminal justice system.
If you or your loved one has been charged with a crime, call Chuck Franklin at (480) 545 – 0700.
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