The Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era executive order that gradually diminished the use of private prisons for federal inmates, a decision that reflects more heavily on Trump’s connections with the private prison industry than it does on Trump’s concern for the country’s well-being.
According to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ memorandum on the order, the number of federal inmates decreased from 220,000 to 195,000 since 2013. She said that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had resorted to contracting private prisons because of the growing federal prison population. According to the memorandum, private prisons did not provide as many services and resources to their inmates, and a report by Office of Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz showed that private prisons had more safety and security incidents per capita, such as cellphone confiscation and assaults.
The move by the Trump administration comes as no surprise. The GEO Group, a private prison company, contributed heavily to pro-Trump super PACS, as reported by the Huffington Post, and another company, CoreCivic, gave $250,000 to Trump for his inauguration. Both companies’ stocks have nearly doubled since Trump was elected, with CoreCivic increasing by 140 percent and Geo Group by 98 percent, according to Heather Long on CNN. Private prisons will see more profit both through stocks and through more prisoners behind bars.
The private prison industry invested in Trump, and the rescinding of Obama’s order is the Trump administration’s way of thanking their investors. Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, he tried to paint the United States as a crime-riddled country by citing a false statistic that murder rates were the highest they’ve been in 47 years. Creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, Trump drummed up support for the private prison industry, which in turn will lead to more people behind bars and more money in the pockets of prison company CEOs.
The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, and more than 20 percent of the world’s prison population, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. We also have longer average prison sentences and imprisonment for crimes that would not warrant a prison sentence elsewhere, according to a 2008 New York Times article.
What this country needs is criminal justice reform. Instead, the Trump administration has given us the continuation of the prison-industrial complex.