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Biden orders Justice to end private prison contracts in attempt to address racial inequality

"This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration," Biden said about ending the contract.

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Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden signs executives orders
Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden signs executives orders
(Doug Mills-Pool / Getty Images)
Updated: January 27, 2021 - 12:29pm

President Biden has instructed the Justice Department to end its reliance on private prisons, saying it's time to "stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration."

Biden made the change Tuesday through an executive order in which he said the government has played a role in implementing discriminatory housing policies.

Biden says the government now needs to shift "its whole approach" on the subject of racial equity. "We must change now," said Biden. "I know it's going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe thee nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well."

"This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration," said the president about the move to end federal contracts with privately operated criminal detention centers.

Of the more than 150,000 current federal inmates, just 14,000 of them are in privately-owned and managed facilities. 

A spokesperson for GEO Group, a private company that operates federal prisons, said that Biden's order is "a solution in search of a problem."

"Given the steps the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) had already announced, today's Executive Order merely represents a political statement, which could carry serious negative unintended consequences, including the loss of hundreds of jobs and negative economic impact for the communities where our facilities are located, which are already struggling economically due to the COVID pandemic," the spokesperson said.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has over the past year not renewed several private prison contracts, due to a smaller number of incoming inmates, in addition to the thousands of inmates transferred to house arrest due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The executive order also addresses several other policies pertaining to racial discrimination, including tribal sovereignty and discrimination against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Biden's Department of Housing and Urban Development has also been instructed to begin taking steps toward promoting equitable housing policies.

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