MARC H. MORIAL

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian Novelist, “The House of the Dead,” 1862

Twenty-four hours after the election of Donald Trump as this nation’s 45th president, the stock prices of privately run prisons in this country soared. And this reversal of fortune came as no surprise to private prison operators—or criminal justice reform advocates. With Trump in the White House, privately owned prison companies rightly presumed that they had a staunch ally of their business model and motives in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As a candidate, Trump publically praised and supported private prisons. During a town hall meeting, Trump said, “I do think we can do a lot of privatization and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.” With his appointment of Jeff Sessions—a well-known criminal justice hardliner—as attorney general, his words of praise and support would inevitably transform into the torrent of policies we have been confronted with since his inauguration that absolutely reverse hard fought for strides in criminal justice reform.

Only six months ago, private prison operators were fighting for their fiscal survival after Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo in August that directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to phase out its use and reliance on private prisons.  Yates’ memorandum was issued on the heels of a report that concluded private prisons provided limited cost savings—if any; that they were less safe for both inmates and prison staff than in federally run prisons; and, that due to a number of policy initiatives—including reducing excessive drug offense sentencing guidelines for low-level drug defendants—the number of people in federal prisons has been on a decline over the last four years, eliminating the need for private prisons.

Yet, the stock prices of the two largest private prison operators, CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America) and Geo Group, have skyrocketed since Election Day. CoreCivic, which donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration events, has seen its share prices shoot up 140 percent. Geo Group, which also donated $250,000 towards Trump’s inaugural events, along with another $225,000 donated by a Geo Group subsidiary to a pro-Trump super PAC, has seen a near 100 percent rise in its share prices. The corporations even enjoyed another profit boosting bump after Sessions’ Senate confirmation.

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