Sessions Paves Path to Prosperity for Private Prison Contractors


Photo from Washington Post 2-28-2017

President Trump wants to build more prisons and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just cleared the way for those prisons to be private prisons, operated for a profit by non-government corporations.

The Obama administration was phasing out the use of private prison facilities.  Last week, Sessions rescinded that Obama policy, stating that the policy, in regards to phasing out the use of private prisons, “hindered the ability of the Bureau of Prisons to effectively plan for future prison needs.”

After studying the issue for years, by way of a Justice Department memo last year, Obama reasoned that outsourcing prisons to private industry was useful at one time, but the use is no longer necessary since the prison population has been declining.

The memo also details data showing private prisons do not work better, they do not save taxpayer money, they do not have the same level of resources, and they do not maintain the same standards of safety.

President Trump has issued executive orders that if implemented guarantee an increased need to build more prisons and detention centers.  Trump has also voiced his support for those prisons to be operated by private prison contractors, using taxpayer money to make profit for shareholders.

“I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons,” the president said, “It seems to work a lot better.”

The Sessions memo claims that not using private prison contractors hinders the Bureau of Prisons’ ability to effectively plan for future prison needs.  However, it seems Obama’s policy did not even affect Immigration Enforcement (ICE) prisons.  Sessions does not give specifics about how steering away from private prisons would hinder the Bureau of Prisons in any way.

Sessions’ favor for private prisons were made apparent last fall, as two of Mr. Sessions former aides became lobbyists for the largest private prison contractor Geo-Group

Campaign contributions from private prison interests to President Trump and the Republican Governors Association (RGA) were widely noted in reporting about the Sessions’ decision to rescind the Obama policy.  The online progressive publication Common Dreams published some donation figures.

The two top private prison companies each donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration event, and that was just the petty cash that flowed from industry and private prison investors.  GEO and CoreCivic also gave more than $1.6 million to the Republican Governors Association.

In a statement about the Sessions directive, former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the use of private prisons and the “corrupt political system” that allowed such quid-pro-quo.  Bernie said we should be focusing on “investment in education and jobs, not jails and incarceration.”

Private prison stocks have been soaring since the election of Trump.  Executives have been celebrating profit, and now a hefty return on investment.  This move by Sessions is the final brick in the road to prosperity for yet another powerful industry determined to have its bountiful profits over the best interests of the people.

The brick mortar is not dry yet; because it involves spending money.  Congress must vote on appropriating funds for many of the President’s plans.  He will need money to build more prisons.  President Trump is currently asking Congress to approve a very large increase in military spending. We will see if Trump’s budget request includes the costs of building more prisons, or if that will come under another bill.