Human Rights

Jeff Sessions' Role in Expanding Private Prisons Is Deeper Than You Might Think

"Some of the biggest backers of Donald Trump's presidency were for-profit prison operators."

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey / Flickr

President Trump's feud with the press dominated the headlines this weekend, effectively distracting from his scrapping of more Obama-era policies. 

"Some of the biggest backers of Donald Trump's presidency were for-profit prison operators, who bask in his tough stance on illegal immigration and glowing reviews of their industry," TV One's Roland Martin explained on Monday. 

"I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons; it seems to work a lot better," Donald Trump told Chris Matthews in an MSNBC town hall on March 30. 

Coincidentally, it was the same town hall in which Trump refused to "take nuclear weapons off the table." But after revisiting the segment, Martin then explained how Trump's stance has since evolved into actual policy. 

"Last year the Department of Justice audit found that private prison facilities have more safety and security issues then federally run prisons, which was in part why in August, President Obama ordered his Justice Department to begin phasing out their private prison contracts," Martin explained. 

"Well, guess what; that has now changed," Martin continued.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions scrapped Obama's 2016 plan to phase out private prisons last Tuesday, in order to "restore (the Bureau of Prisons’) flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs,” said the Justice Department.

Additionally, Sessions insisted the memorandum "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," Sessions said in a letter to Thomas Kane, acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Sessions' letter was not made public until Thursday. But Trump's overhaul had been in the works for months. 

"When Obama made the decision [to phase out private prisons] in August, the next day, a subsidiary of GEO group, one of the nation's largest for-profit prison operators donated $100,000 dollars to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now," Martin explained. 

"Recently, the GEO group and another prison operator, Core Civic, each gave $250,000 to support Trump inaugural festivities. Now, they are looking to profit from the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions," he added. "In fact... the day after the decision was announced by Sessions, the stock price of the companies shot up. That's how major this issue is."

Martin then turned to a panel, which included Carmen Perez (executive director of the Gathering for Justice), Lauren Victoria Burke (political analyst at NBCBLK), Christopher Metzler, PhD, (CEO, JMI Group) and Jamira Burley (human rights activist), to discuss how the industry funding Trump profits enormously from mass incarceration and slave labor.

Watch:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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