A few months before the 2016 election, the Obama administration did something that received a small amount of attention. The Obama Justice Department released a memo stating they were going to diminish their use of for-profit prisons until they were no longer be used at all.
In a normal society, the empty prison cells are a good thing. It means crime is down. It means we are safer. In a society that employs for-profit prisons, empty cells mean lost revenue for stockholders. In a system that uses for-profit prisons, the goal is to fill every cell, and then build even more prisons to house more inmates. This creates a system in which the justice system proactively looks to imprison people.
So, when Obama’s Justice Department announced they were reducing their reliance on private prisons to the point of eliminating them altogether, a lot of people were rightfully relieved.
That changed today. Jeff Sessions, donald trump’s new attorney general, withdrew Obama’s Justice Department memo, promising for-profit prison corporations that they could count on their stock prices rising once again as the trump administration decided to turn our criminal justice system back over to the profit industry.
When a nation of laws decides that the criminal system works best when people can profit from it, it motivates the system to find more criminals to lock up, and to lower the threshold for imprisonable offenses. This is not a good thing for a free republic.