Trump admin rescinds plan to reduce private prison use

Trump admin rescinds plan to reduce private prison use
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era plan to phase out the federal government's use of private prisons. 

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFederal judge rules Trump defunding sanctuary cities 'unconstitutional on its face' FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Alabama election has GOP racing against the clock MORE sent a memo Thursday to the Bureau of Prisons rescinding the Obama administration's Aug. 16 order advising the bureau not to renew any contracts with private prisons, according to a copy of the letter.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates had instructed officials to either not renew private prison contracts or substantially reduce the scope of such contracts to ultimately end the department's use of privately operated prisons altogether. 

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In a brief memo Thursday, Sessions said Yates’s order "changed the long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system."

“Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach,” he wrote.

In a statement to The Hill, a Justice Department spokesperson said the new memo directs the bureau to continue to use private prisons.  
 
"This will restore BOP's flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs," the spokesperson said. 
 
The bureau now has 12 private prison contracts that house approximately 21,000 inmates, according to the DOJ.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded in a statement from David C. Fathi, director of its National Prison Project.

“Handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse and neglect," he said. 

"The memo from Attorney General Sessions ignores this fact. Additionally, this memo is a further sign that under President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, the United States may be headed for a new federal prison boom, fueled in part by criminal prosecutions of immigrants for entering the country."

Updated at 6:10 p.m.