U.S. reverses Obama-era move to phase out private prisons

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By Eric Beech | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Feb 23 The U.S. Justice Department
has reversed an order by the Obama administration to phase out
the use of private contractors to run federal prisons.

In a memo made public on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff
Sessions said the Obama policy impaired the government’s ability
to meet the future needs of the federal prison system.

The Obama administration said in August 2016 it planned a
gradual phase-out of private prisons by letting contracts expire
or by scaling them back to a level consistent with recent
declines in the U.S. prison population.

It said privately operated prisons were less safe and a poor
substitute for government-run facilities.

“The (Obama administration) memorandum changed long-standing
policy and practice, and impaired the bureau’s ability to meet
the future needs of the federal correctional system. Therefore,
I direct the bureau to return to its previous approach,”
Sessions said in a letter dated Tuesday to Thomas Kane, acting
director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Shares of the two leading U.S. private prison companies
gained in after hours trading, with GEO Group Inc up
2.15 percent and CoreCivic Inc up 3.44 percent.

Thirteen of the federal government’s 146 prisons are
privately run. Together, those 13 housed 22,600 inmates as of
December 2015, down from about 40,000 in 2014.

The Bureau of Prisons began contracting with private
companies in 1997 at a time of severe prison over-crowding.



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