Target: Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney General
Goal: Put an end to the U.S. government’s use of private prisons.
President Trump and his administration has rolled back another regulation to protect the American people, electing not to terminate contracts with private, for-profit prison companies which currently run over 100 federal prisons. Ample evidence from government reports shows that these are more dangerous than federal prisons, and research suggests that they may not even save taxpayer money. However, the Trump administration believes these companies still have a role to play in the federal penal system, perhaps because these companies showed him so much monetary support during his campaign. Whatever the reason, with the new administration showing all signs of bringing back “tough on crime” policies and ramping up detention of undocumented immigrants, private prisons may soon be reaping higher and higher profits by threatening more lives than ever.
Private prison companies are run to maximize profit, and are thus far more willing to cut corners where they can to make more money. As a result, the prisons they run tend to be understaffed, and what staff exists is poorly paid, so when fights break out among inmates, guards are less able to risk their well-being to keep the peace. Furthermore, thanks to overcrowding in no small part caused by tough on crime policies like mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug crimes, private prisons routinely violate federal rules by placing inmates in solitary confinement to make space. Since these are usually low-security facilities housing low-risk inmates like undocumented immigrants, private prisons can adversely threaten the lives of those least capable of speaking out against the injustice they face behind bars.
As Senators Chris Van Holleran (D-MD) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) pointed out in a letter to Attorney General Sessions, this new acceptance of private prisons may reflect donations totalling over $750,000 from private prison companies to groups supporting then-candidate Trump, with one company donating $100,000 the day after the announcement that contracts with private companies would not be renewed. With the new administration set to send many more immigrants and inmates to be housed in these private facilities, we must now demand an end to their use by the federal government, before it is too late.
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
I write today to demand that the federal government put an end to the use of private prisons in the federal criminal justice system. These prisons have been shown to be more violent and less safe for inmates than federal prisons, which is why former Deputy Attorney Sally Yates committed to ending contracts with prison companies. Due to their for-profit nature, these prison operators are incentivized to understaff their facilities, making them more dangerous when fights break out among inmates. Though private prisons play a small role in the U.S. criminal justice system, because private prisons tend to house low-risk inmates like undocumented immigrants, abuses are more likely to go unnoticed and uncorrected.
This problem is made worse by the fact that the Trump administration has declared its intention to bring back “tough on crime” policies like mandatory minimum sentencing, which in recent decades have led to a large prison population unparalleled by any other nation. Given the risks private prisons pose, this means that more prisoners will be at risk of violence and abuse. A rise in the detention of undocumented immigrants will only exacerbate existing issues, placing those least capable of speaking out in prisons known for their mistreatment of inmates. Despite the support private prison companies gave President Trump during his campaign, I urge you to evaluate the facts surrounding this policy and use unbiased judgement to evaluate if the abuse of federal inmates and immigrants is worth the uncertain savings of taxpayer money. With so many lives at stake, the use of private prisons should be terminated to ensure a just and impartial application of the criminal justice laws of this great nation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Falkenpost