President Joe Biden has ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to end all contracts with private prisons.
This has been part of a whirlwind first week for Biden, who has signed several executive orders, including this one. The 46th president said the measure is needed to make prisons safer, more sanitary and more humane as well as obliterate a penal system that has preyed and fed on mostly Black and minority inmates.
“This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration,” Biden said.
Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama, noted that “there was a Department of Justice inspector general report in 2016 that underscored that private prisons funded by DOJ were less safe, less secure and arguably less humane.”
“Private prisons profiteer off federal prisoners and are proven to be, or found to be by the Department of Justice inspector general, less safe for correctional officers and prisoners,” she added.
While Biden is lauded in some circles, he also is receiving biting criticism from detractors of the move.
First, the federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency within the Justice Department, had already decided not the renew the contracts with private prisons. There are significantly fewer inmates to govern due to the widespread “compassionate release” granted to many lower-level prisoners because of the pandemic.
Secondly, critics decry the loss of employment and tax revenue as well as the timing of the order coming during these precarious economic times.
“Given the steps, the BOP had already announced, today’s Executive Order merely represents a political statement, which could carry serious negative unintended consequences,” said a spokesperson for GEO Group, a private company that runs federal prisons, according to Baller Alert. This includes “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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is skeptical of Biden’s executive order. Flip the page to see how the organization is assessing the move.