President Joe Biden (D) signed an executive order on Tuesday directing the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons and ordering the agency to not renew such contracts.
“This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration,” Biden said prior to signing the order.
The move is similar to the policies of the Obama Administration for which Biden served as vice president. According to a CBS News report, more than 14,000 federal inmates are housed at privately-run prisons; in all there are about 152,000 inmates in federal custody.
In a statement to news outlets, a spokesperson for the GEO Group, a private firm that operates federal prisons, said that the industry is already facing economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic – which has led to the release of some prisoners due to the risk of exposure to the virus. The spokesperson described the order as “a political statement” which could have a negative impact on jobs and the communities that rely on those jobs.
The GEO Group’s top three contracts are with the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, with 19.3% of its beds, representing 21.7% of its revenue; the Federal Bureau of Prisons (16.9% of beds, 13.9% of revenue), and the U.S Marshals Service (11.4%/11.2%). The company had generated $1.77 billion of revenue through the third quarter of 2020. Last November, the BOP declined to rebid on the group’s Rivers Correctional Facility in North Carolina, according to Million Acres.
David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, noted to the Associated Press that the order does not impact private company’s that run immigration detention centers. He called the order “an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it” but that the president “has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises.”
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