Executive Order Will Phase Out DOJ’s Use of Private Prisons

Posted on in Federal Crimes

Chicago federal crime defense attorneyIn the first few weeks of his administration, President Joe Biden has taken a number of steps toward keeping promises that he made on the campaign trail. To date, President Biden has signed more than two dozen executive orders, already approaching Franklin Roosevelt’s record of 30 executive orders in the first month of his administration. The president’s efforts of late have been directed toward social and racial justice concerns, including a noteworthy executive order that will phase out the use of private federal prisons by the Department of Justice.

Changing the “Whole Approach”

Last Tuesday, President Biden issued an executive order that directs the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to end their association with privately run, for-profit prisons. As part of the order’s directives, existing contracts with private prisons will continue to be honored, but the Attorney General has been instructed not to renew such contracts when they expire.

In his remarks prior to signing the order, President Biden emphasized his belief that the federal government must change “its whole approach” to issues of racial justice and social inequities, including in the criminal justice system. Biden added, “I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”

Private Prisons in the United States

Private prisons have been in use in the U.S. since the 1800s, and their use picked up considerably in the wake of the Civil War. Today, private prisons represent a billion-dollar industry, but privately-run facilities have become notorious for poor inmate living conditions. According to a report from the Justice Department in 2016, the rates of use-of-force incidents, lockdowns, and inmate assault are much higher in private prisons than in those that are owned and run by the government.

President Biden made it clear that he sees ending the relationship between the federal government and private prisons as “the first step” in stopping companies from making a profit from “incarceration that is less human and less safe.

What Impact Will the Order Have?

The president’s executive order could have a direct impact on the more than 14,000 federal inmates who are currently housed in privately-run facilities, as well as those facing federal charges in the future. However, as there are more than 150,000 total federal inmates in the U.S., it is important to note that the initial impact of the order may be felt on a relatively small scale. Additionally, the Bureau of Prisons had already decided to decline the renewal of some private contracts over the last few months, as the number of inmates dropped and many were transferred to confinement at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a presidential executive order, last week’s directive applies only to the Department of Justice and prisons housing federal inmates. The order has no bearing on whether state governments can continue to contract with private prisons.

Contact a Chicago Federal Crimes Attorney

If you have been charged with a federal crime and are facing incarceration in federal prison, it is important to work closely with an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, we will do everything we can to ensure that your rights and best interests are fully protected, no matter how complicated your case might be. Call 312-629-0669 for a free consultation today.



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