President Biden has ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons, issuing an Executive Order on Tuesday.
This now instructs the Department of Justice to not renew contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities, essentially returning the Department to its policy at the end of the Obama administration.
“This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration,” Biden said.
In the Executive Order published by the White House, President Biden points to the problem of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects people of color. Furthermore, “privately operated criminal detention facilities consistently underperform Federal facilities with respect to correctional services, programs, and resources. We should ensure that time in prison prepares individuals for the next chapter of their lives.”
Still, this move only affects a minority of prisoners in the United States — only 14,000 federal inmates are held in private prisons out of nearly 152,000 federal inmates.
Furthermore, as the AP reports, this order will not affect Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or private immigration detention centers that have been at the center of several lawsuits alleging human trafficking and forced labor:
David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, noted that the order does not end the federal government’s reliance on privately-run immigration detention centers.
“The order signed today is an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it, but President Biden has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises,” Fathi said.
Rashad Robinson, president of the national racial justice organization Color of Change, expressed disappointment that policing was not addressed in the executive action.
“President Biden’s executive orders to not renew 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,” said Robinson
GEO Group, one of the largest private immigration detention and federal prison companies in the country, lambasted President Biden’s order, claiming that it would cost jobs.
“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 GEO Group spokesperson said in a statement.
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