Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) said the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service continue to use privately-operated detention facilities to hold prisoners, and he wants President Joe Biden to put a stop to it.
In a letter, Cohen said private prison companies have discovered ways to circumvent an executive order that Biden signed in January. That order directed the attorney general not to renew contracts with privately-operated criminal facilities.
Cohen asked Biden to enforce that executive order.
“Public reporting has highlighted new tactics used by private prison companies to retain federal prison contracts in an effort to continue to reap profits off of the incarceration and dehumanization of those within their custody,” Cohen wrote.
Cohen, citing a 2016 Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report, said private prisons have higher rates of safety and security problems versus those at federally managed institutions.
Cohen said that the Florida-based GEO Group recently entered a six-month contract extension with the U.S. Marshals Service for a 770 bed Western Region Detention Facility in San Diego, California. He said GEO uses local governments as intermediaries for federal prison contracts “so that private prisons are not directly contracting with the federal government.”
Cohen also said that the Brentwood, Tennessee-based CoreCivic uses the same methods.
CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin addressed Cohen’s letter Monday via an email to The Tennessee Star.
“Any assertion that our company is motivated to ‘reap profits off of the incarceration and dehumanization of those within’ our care is blatantly false. We have every incentive to provide outstanding service to our government partners, just as any other business must meet and exceed the expectations of its customers,” Gustin said.
“The fact that we’ve worked with both Democrat and Republican administrations for the past four decades is a testament to the quality of the services we provide and the genuine need the government has for them. One of the most important ways we serve our government partners is through the flexibility we provide, and we’ll continue working with them in the ways they desire and need.”
Biden, in January, denounced what he called “systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long” and signed executive actions aimed at “racial equity,” including a measure to end the use of private prisons to hold federal inmates.
“This is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off the incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as studies show,” Biden said at the time.
The Obama administration sought to pull contracts from private prisons. Former President Donald Trump reversed that course.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]