Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently repealed an Obama era Justice Department measure that instructed the department to phase out the use of private prisons.


On August 16th the Obama administration ordered the Bureau of Prisons not to renew any contracts with private prisons. Today, Thursday February 23rd, Jeff Sessions sent the Bureau of Prisons a memo to disregard that particular Obama era directive.


The Obama administration policy aimed to substantially limit the number of private prisons in operation and push the rest out through denial of contracts. With the ultimate goal being a complete end to American private prisons.

Sessions’ memo declared that Obama and then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, “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.”

As it stands now the Bureau of Prison operates 12 private prisons that house over 21,000 inmates.


A Department of Justice told The Hill that the move will “restore the Bureau of Prisons flexibility to manage the federal inmate population based on the capacity needs.”


Although such a move might technically give the federal prison system more options, the money saved by switching to private prisons usually comes straight out of programs that aim to improve the lives of prisoners across the country. Rehabilitation programs and job training are some of the first things cut in private prison systems and Session’s memo spells trouble for those who have tried to limit the practice for that reason.


Furthermore the administration has hinted at the potential for using private prisons in order to house immigration detainees, which opens a whole new set of problems.


It’s hard to tell what exactly this directive means in the long term, how many private prisons will sign new contracts and how many beds they will hold. What is clear though is that the Trump administration aims to hold strong to its promise of “law and order.”


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