(TriceEdneyWire.com)—March 7 marked the 52nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the historic march and shocking police riot in Selma, Ala., that helped build public support for passage of the Voting Rights Act. Now, a half-century later, an avowed critic of that law—former Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who was born in Selma—has been confirmed as attorney general of the United States. In one of his first acts in office—reversing Obama’s order to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons—he has begun to weaken civil rights protections.
The decision on private prisons reflects Trump’s desire to repeal all things Obama. It expresses the ideological bias of reactionaries like Sessions toward privatizing public functions. It also reveals the pervasive corruption already apparent in the Trump administration. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States—GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America)—and their associates have, according to Reason Magazine, contributed “more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts.”
When Trump stoked public fears of violent crime in our cities, called our prison system a “disaster,” and endorsed “privatizations and private prisons,” the industry ponied up hundreds of thousands of dollars to support his candidacy. Since Trump won the election, share prices of GEO Group and CoreCivic have soared more than 100 percent. In our corrupted politics, Sessions’ act helps consolidate their return on investment.
Reviving private prisons, however, represents far more than mere anti-Obama venom, ideological preference or even political corruption. It tramples basic civil and human rights. And African Americans and Latinos, who disproportionately populate our prisons, will suffer the most.