It’s wrong to have a private prison industry that has a financial stake in locking more people up

In what appears to be a reward to Republican campaign donors and private companies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department suddenly — and without proper explanation — rescinded the Obama-era policy to phase out federal contracting with private prisons.

So why does this matter?

In America today, we’re home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we incarcerate close to 25 percent of the world’s total prison population, including many nonviolent offenders.

And taxpayers are footing the bill by paying over $80 billion a year to keep over 2.4 million inmates in prison.

While ending federal use of private prisons won’t entirely solve our mass incarceration rates, it’s a critical step in reforming our criminal justice system. Profit-driven prison policy runs counter to our long fight to reform our broken criminal justice system. Reversing a policy that phases out federal contracting with private prisons, without giving proper explanation to the American people, is fundamentally wrong.

Private prisons are unsafe and waste taxpayer dollars.

“I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.” ―Donald Trump

It seems as though President Trump needs another alternative fact check. Last year, the Justice Department concluded that private prisons compared poorly with government facilities on every single key measure―including safety, cost effectiveness, and rehabilitation services.

As former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates explained, “[Private prisons] don’t provide the same level of rehabilitation services like education programs and job training, They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’ s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

Under President Trump, private prisons are thriving.

Even before Trump stepped into the Oval Office, the private prison industry profited.

In fact, the day he declared victory, the stocks of the two largest private prison companies―Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group―soared by a whopping 43 and 21 percent, respectively. And since election day, stocks in those companies are up by more than 100 percent.

That’s no coincidence.

During Trump’s campaign, private prison companies reached deep into their pockets and donated over $750,000 to pro-Trump super PACs. Private prison companies are making large contributions to campaigns, just so politicians can help them fill their profit-driven prisons once elected. This is a national disgrace.

Which is why Cory Booker and I are demanding answers from Attorney General Sessions about these dealings and the policy reversal. We are deeply concerned that Trump’s decision to shift policy back toward reliance on private prisons will hinder efforts to reform our broken criminal justice system.

Editor’s note: Go behind the scenes with Sen. Van Hollen and Sen. Booker for some of their best outtakes.