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Joe Biden Is Aiming To End The Federal Use Of Private Prisons

Biden is directing the Justice Department to not renew contracts with private prisons, as part of a slew of executive orders focused on racial equity he is signing Tuesday.

Last updated on January 26, 2021, at 2:28 p.m. ET

Posted on January 26, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. ET

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

President Joe Biden is directing the Justice Department to not renew contracts with private prisons, as part of a slew of executive orders focused on racial equity he is signing Tuesday.

The Biden administration will not enter new contracts with private prisons, according to a senior administration official. The Biden administration has not yet released the text of the order.

During a White House press briefing on the new actions, domestic policy advisor Amb. Susan Rice said that the executive order would only apply to Department of Justice facilities and not to Department of Homeland Security facilities, like private ICE detention centers. “It addresses the Department of Justice prisons in the first instance and is silent on what may or may not transpire with ICE facilities,” Rice told reporters.

Additionally, according to the senior official, Biden is signing three others that are more symbolic in nature: one affirms Tribal sovereignty, one disavows xenophobia against Asian Americans, and one will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine the Trump administration's regulatory practices and move forward in promoting equitable policies.

Over the last decade, ending private prison funding has become a major cause for Democrats and criminal justice activists, elevated as well by the rising Black Lives Matter movement.

“This is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off incarceration that is less humane and less safe as the studies show,” Biden said during remarks before signing the executive actions. “This is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system.”

The orders come after a season of nationwide protests centered around police brutality and racial equity, and as civil rights and criminal justice reform groups pressured the Biden campaign to fulfill campaign promises after Black voters propelled him both to the Democratic Party nomination and the White House.

Biden had promised to make racial equity a central part of his presidency on the campaign trail and during his inauguration last week.

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