In August of last year, Free Market Shooter wrote in support of an Obama administration directive to end the use of private prisons in the United States, one of the only policy issues the administration managed to get right:
Why, you ask, is a free market advocate in favor of ending private prisons? Simple: because these facilities aren’t “private” at all.
The reason why should be obvious. Prisoners are their only “customer”, if you want to call them a customer at all; the “customers” are provided by the government, who pays private prison companies for their incarceration.
What else makes private prisons so profitable? This should also be obvious – having as many facilities and customers as possible. They have every incentive to encourage laws that keep as many incarcerated as possible, as it increases their “customer” base. Moreover, they then sell the “labor” from prisoners to companies who source prison labor at bargain basement prices, increasing their margins even further.
We all should have known the Obama administration would manage to screw this up; it just took two weeks into the job for new Attorney General and Drug War champion Jeff Sessions to flick his pen and undo Obama’s efforts:
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.
And, in case you weren’t aware, this is the same Jeff Sessions who is on the record as being not only against medicinal marijuana, it is the same Jeff Sessions that has stated that marijuana is only slightly less awful than heroin:
Jeff Sessions, to reporters in Richmond just now: "I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much."
— Matt Zapotosky (@mattzap) March 15, 2017
And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.
If you investigate Sessions’ claim by examining charts of annual deaths for each drug…
…you’ll notice that “slightly less dangerous” marijuana can’t be compared and doesn’t have a chart, because it kills precisely no one…
Heroin overdose deaths per year ~13,000.
Marijuana overdose deaths per year ~0 https://t.co/hn7Z04KU42
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) March 15, 2017
…but fear not, this man now heads up the Department of Justice, and is responsible for enforcing the war on drugs – surely the DoJ’s resources and funds will be “properly allocated” to best serve the public and not the corporate interests, right?
Just as we did before, if you follow the money, you’ll see that while Trump’s election win might have undone the Obama effect on the share prices of the two major private prisons groups, CoreCivic (CXW) and the GEO Group (GEO)…
…it took Mr. Drug War Jeff Sessions himself to kick these stocks into overdrive, with shares of both more than doubling off the pre-election lows:
We pointed out that stocks for private prisons plummeted when then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates ordered they be phased out last year. We reminded you that the day after Trump’s election, those stocks soared. Now, we read in TheNation that in October, just before the election, two of Sessions’ former Senate aides, David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux, became lobbyists for GEO Group, one of the two largest private prison companies, and that the two were specifically engaged to lobby on government contracting.
So, when Sessions focuses on expanding the drug war and private prisons… take one guess as to who wins the contracts:
The Trump administration has awarded its first federal contract for a new immigrant detention center to be built in Texas.
The $110 million deal went to GEO Group, a private prison company that runs 143 facilities worldwide. In a news release, GEO said it would build and run the 1,000-bed facility outside Houston under a 10-year contract that would “generate approximately $44 million in annualized revenues and returns on investment.”
And if you think this has nothing to do with the war on drugs, think again:
Sessions has long been a leading advocate for vigorous enforcement of harsh mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that have exacerbated mass incarceration. As a federal prosecutor in Alabama, the Brennan Center for Justice found that 40 percent of his convictions were for drug related crimes, double the rate of other Alabama federal prosecutors.
What a surprise – when it comes to private prisons and the war on drugs, all you have to do is follow the money to see who still supports them.