Last Friday Jeff Sessions, the new United States Attorney General, announced by memorandum that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) will continue using private, for-profit prisons for federal inmates. This announcement is disappointing to us but is great news for the shareholders and executives of private prison corporations, particularly CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group. The Sessions memo reversed the "Yates memo;" i.e., the announcement by the Obama administration on August 18, 2016 that FBOP would discontinue contracting with private prison corporations.
The Yates memo followed a 70-page report by the U.S. Office of Inspector General that detailed serious performance failures by private prisons that affect health and safety "within the walls" and public security. The tenuous nature of the Yates memo was discussed in our initial blog post ("A Good Start," October 26, 2016).
Last Friday's announcement came as no surprise. Candidate Donald Trump expressed support for prison privatization. The prison privatization movement that began during the Reagan era and flourished at the federal level through every administration during the last 20 years, has muscled its way back into political favor at the highest level of government.
The Sessions memo came without any response to the serious findings that underlie the Yates memo, and illustrates -- emphatically -- that political advocacy and editorial comment will not be enough to bring about an end to our growing dependency on an industry that should not exist at all. It is imperative that we challenge the per se constitutionality of prison privatization in federal court. We have the power to act, regardless of what our elected leaders do.
Please take action right now to support this cause: go to your cell phone or tablet and make a donation; create a profile on our website; spread the word about this cause on social media; divest from for-profit prison corporations; ask your school, your church, and your pension funds to divest from private prison corporations; write a letter to the editor; connect your civic or faith groups with others on this issue. Please become part of the movement to abolish private prisons. Thank you.