Since taking office, Trump and his administration have been busy reversing the policies of prior presidential administrations, particularly those of his predecessor Barack Obama. Moments ago, yet another Obama-Era decision was reversed, this time an August 2016 memo intended to “phase out” the use of private prisons. The reversal, realized by the newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ostensibly signals the new administration’s support for such institutions.
Sessions, in making the reversal official, advised that the Bureau of Prisons will “return to its previous approach to the use of private prisons.” Sessions went on to say that the previous memo “impaired” the government’s ability to meet the needs of the correctional system. Stock prices for private prison corporations noticeably jumped after news of the reversal went public.
The now defunct plan to phase out prisons had called for the reduction and ultimate elimination of for-profit, privately-run prisons. That memo, authored by then-Attorney General Sally Yates, asserted that for-profit prisons were not managed as well as their public counterparts and were quickly becoming unnecessary thanks to recent declines in the overall prison population.
The private prison industry actively supported Trump during the 2016 campaign and after, raising a record $100 million for his inauguration last month. Many of these same companies anticipated a jump in profits thanks to Trump’s tough new immigration orders, which are expected to put a significant number of undocumented immigrants behind bars. In response to Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration, the CEO of private prison giant CoreCivic said: “When coupled with the above average rate of crossings along the southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane, and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available.” Thus, Session’s reversal of this Obama-Era decision, though sudden, is not too surprising.