Biden’s Private Prison Executive Order Doesn’t Undo Mass Incarceration

Biden’s executive order impacts a small segment of the current carceral state. His order not only applies exclusively to the federal Bureau of Prisons — which makes up slightly more than 8 percent of the current U.S. penal population — but just 9 percent of the people incarcerated under the Bureau of Prisons are held in a private prison. Rather than addressing the whole of the Bureau of Prisons under his purview, Biden’s order covers only 11 prisons, which incarcerate a total of 14,000 people.

In addition, immigration justice activists have rightfully called attention to Biden’s exclusion of the Department of Homeland Security, and therefore privately run immigration detention centers, from his order. In contrast to the small percentage of private prisons within the Bureau of Prisons, the majority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities are currently under private contracts. Yet there is no indication that the Biden administration will extend the executive order to the Department of Homeland Security, as the order is careful to only refer to “criminal” detention facilities in contrast to ICE’s “civil” detention facilities.

What’s more, such executive commitments have proven less than secure. Under Obama, after the Department of Justice pledged it would not renew such contracts unless they were substantially reduced in scope, the Department of Justice renewed two separate private prison contracts at close to the previous capacity agreements. Furthermore, following the election of Donald Trump, Obama’s executive order was thrown in the trash allowing for a host of other federal private prison contracts to be renewed.

truthout Biden’s Private Prison Executive Order Doesn’t Undo Mass Incarceration