American President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons.
In remarks before signing the orders, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. He added that the nation is less prosperous and secure because of the scourge of systemic racism.
“We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”
The order bars the Justice Department from renewing contracts with private prisons but does not address contracts held by DHS. Biden said during his campaign that he would “make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants.” It’s unclear if the administration is planning future action on the issue.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has long relied heavily on private facilities largely run by two for-profit corporations: CoreCivic and GEO Group Inc.
The number of immigrants in ICE detention has fallen during the pandemic, but in 2019, when more than 55,000 people were housed in ICE detention, more than half were held in privately run facilities. DHS also uses city and county jails to hold immigrants in detention.