“Incarceration rates worldwide” by November Coalition. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

February 24, 2017; The Nation

For activists working on reducing mass incarceration as a cornerstone of criminal justice reform, the future looks more than a little daunting.

On Friday, NPQ wrote about the new memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that brought private prisons back into play on the federal level. 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 The Nation 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.

The private prison industry has a big investment in the future of mass incarceration. Even more infuriating, much of that in the short term may be tied to immigration enforcement policies. “With respect to detention services,” said GEO Group CEO George Zoley on a recent call with investors, “we would continue to be the largest provider of detention services to the three largest government agencies—that is, ICE, the Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Marshals Service.”

David Dayen, writing for The Nation, said:

It’s not just that the Sessions memo is good news for the private-prison industry in general. It’s good for GEO Group in particular. That’s precisely the type of crony capitalism and picking of winners and losers that conservatives have paid lip service to wanting to prevent for years. In Trump’s America, success is just one well-chosen lobbyist away.

—Ruth McCambridge