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1/30: Leaked Memo Reveals Trump’s Gift to Private Prison Companies
Released 13 March 2018  By Samantha Michaels – Mother Jones

Leaked Memo Reveals Trump’s Gift to Private Prison Companies

Leaked Memo Reveals Trump’s Gift to Private Prison Companies. Meanwhile, public prisons are expecting a 12 to 14 percent reduction in staffing levels.

Samantha Michaels – Mother Jones
Jan. 30, 2018

Prison companies that backed Donald Trump during the presidential
campaign and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to his inaugural
committee just got another boost from his administration. The Bureau of
Prisons will now transfer more inmates from government-run lockups to
private facilities, according to a memo sent to department staffers last
week, as the agency prepares to cut federal correctional jobs.
Trump has requested in his budget proposal a reduction of 6,000 BOP
positions, including more than 1,800 correctional officers.

The memo, published by Government Executive on Thursday, orders federal
prisons to identify eligible inmates for the transfers by targeting
low-security, male immigrants who are serving time for crimes. According
to the directive, the move is intended to alleviate overcrowding at
government facilities and “to maximize the effectiveness of the private
contracts.” Currently, 11 private prisons contract with the BOP, and
most hold immigrants convicted of crimes.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department started phasing out
its use of private prisons after the inspector general found them to be
less safe than publicly run facilities. But when President Trump took
office, the department switched course: Last February, Attorney General
Jeff Sessions described private prisons as essential for meeting “the
future needs of the federal correctional system.” Stock prices for
prison industry giants like CoreCivic and GEO Group soared soon after.

Speaking to investors last summer, executives from both companies
highlighted BOP plans for a “capacity realignment” to avoid overcrowding
in publicly run prisons and ensure, as CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger put
it, that low-security inmates “are being housed in the most cost
effective facilities.” While the latest directive targets immigrants
serving time, prison executives have suggested that other inmates may
soon be transferred too. “You’ll see the bureau evaluate U.S. citizens
as they have previously evaluated criminal aliens,” J. Dave Donahue,
president of GEO Group’s US corrections operations, told investors on an
August call.

At the federal level, the biggest client for these prison companies is
the Department of Homeland Security, which contracts with them to detain
undocumented immigrants who face deportation. Still, the Bureau of
Prisons is an important partner for CoreCivic and GEO Group, which
collectively run 9 of the agency’s 11 private contract facilities.

The bureau’s expanded use of private lockups comes as the agency plans
to cut the number of correctional officers and other employees at
publicly run prisons. In a conference call days before the memo leaked,
the bureau told facility administrators to expect a 12 to 14 percent
reduction in staffing levels—though lawmakers and others have argued
that prisons are already dangerously understaffed. “This is catastrophic
for the safety and security of our institutions,” Ray Coleman, president
of a Florida-based union chapter of the American Federation of
Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, said in a statement after
hearing of job cuts at a federal prison in Tallahassee.

The Bureau of Prisons has for years run on what it describes as “mission
critical” staffing—defined as the minimum levels of staffing required to
safely operate each facility. But federal investigators have warned that
combined with overcrowding, these low staff levels have left inmates and
guards more vulnerable to assault. In 2015, then-BOP Director Charles E.
Samuels Jr. told Congress that a shortage of correctional officers also
hampered efforts to provide inmates with programs. During a House
Oversight Committee hearing on prisons in December, lawmakers asked the
Bureau of Prisons’ new chief, Mark Inch, why the administration now
wanted to dip below mission-critical staffing levels. “Though I can’t
specifically answer on the process that resulted in the mission-critical
staffing positions by facility,” said Inch, who had been appointed three
months previously, “it is certainly a priority [to] relook at our
staffing numbers.”

“I want you to relook at that because we’re talking about the safety of
people like Eric Williams and his coworkers,” said Pennsylvania Rep.
Matt Cartwright, referring to a 34-year-old correctional officer who was
stabbed to death at a federal prison in Pennsylvania in 2013.
“Absolutely,” Inch replied.

Congress has not yet passed a complete budget bill for the 2018 fiscal
year. Trump has requested in his budget proposal a reduction of 6,000
BOP positions, including more than 1,800 correctional officers.

“This administration is setting the [BOP] up for failure,” said Coleman.
“As violence and recidivism rise, and our staff struggle to
meet…accreditation requirements, the line staff will be blamed for these
failures, and the administration will point to this as an excuse to
contract out our law enforcement role to the private prison industry.”

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