Biden Executive Order Ends DOJ Private Prison Contracts

Joe Biden’s order directs the office of the attorney general to “not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.” 

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

Criminal justice reform advocates on Tuesday welcomed an executive order from President Joe Biden phasing out Department of Justice contracts with private prisons as a meaningful first step, even as the president faced criticism over the order’s limited scope and impact. 

In announcing the order, Biden acknowledged the wave of racial justice protests that swept the nation in the wake of last year’s killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police, which the president said “opened the eyes of millions.”

“We’ve never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation… that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives,” Biden admitted, declaring that “now’s the time to act.”


“More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, including a disproportionate number of people of color,” the executive order states. “There is broad consensus that our current system of mass incarceration imposes significant costs and hardships on our society and communities and does not make us safer.”

“To decrease incarceration levels, we must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the federal government’s reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities,” it adds. 

To that end, Biden’s order directs the office of the attorney general—currently headed by Monty Wilkinson in an acting capacity pending the Senate confirmation of Merrick Garland—to “not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.” 


The order will affect around 14,000 federal inmates currently incarcerated in private prisons, or about 9 percent of the federal prison population—and just 0.6 percent of the approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in US prisons and jails. It does not apply to other federal agencies that contract with private prisons, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service. 

Progressive lawmakers, organizations, and advocates welcomed the order, even while many noted its considerable limitations.


The order on prisons was one of a set of racial equity measures enacted by Biden on Tuesday. The president also issued a memorandum ordering the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “redress historical racism in federal housing policies” and fully implement the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

Additionally, he signed an executive order re-affirming the federal government’s commitment to Indigenous sovereignty, and another memorandum condemning “racism, xenophobia, and intolerance” against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, which has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, in part due to racist rhetoric from former President Donald Trump.  


Dorian Spence, director of special litigation and advocacy at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued a statement praising Biden’s actions on Tuesday as a “welcome change.”

“Following four years of the Trump administration turning a blind eye to racial inequity and injustice at every turn, we are pleased that this new administration is centering its focus around issues impacting the lives and reality faced by people of color in this country,” he said. 

“The forerunners of these executive orders and other future actions for racial equity were embodied in last summer’s protests in the streets, and through a commitment from the millions of registered voters who turned out during a pandemic to vote in numbers not seen in our nation’s history,” Spence added. 

This article is from Common Dreams.

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4 comments for “Biden Executive Order Ends DOJ Private Prison Contracts

  1. Helga I. Fellay
    January 27, 2021 at 18:27

    It’s what I had feared as soon as I read about this wonderful sounding order. Another Dem thing that looks good on its face, but has a backdoor most will never notice to make sure that corporate prison profiteers will not be left out in the cold. Dems have worked that trick to perfection.

  2. Rabbit
    January 27, 2021 at 18:10

    So why isn’t ICE and US Marshals included?
    You know I know Republicans want to do us dirty. They make no bones about it. Democrats on the other hand will pretend to be on your side and then screw you behind your back. Half measures like this being used to distract us, pretending to be moral people while creating terror at home and around the world are the perfect example.
    Now Joe promised us 2K checks. Promised to end support for the Yemen terror. Just two examples where he’s lied. Democrats have some serious mental problems to ignore the terror and misery they’re part of. Biden is going to screw Iran on JOCPA and he’s going to screw Venezuela too. Just watch.
    Democrats feign all this self righteous morality while they support crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Humanistic intervention. Kinder more gentle murder.
    While we’re distracted by a few good things Biden does he’ll be committing other acts of terrorism that Democrats won’t call out because they’re so moral and better then the other guys, they say.

  3. rosemerry
    January 27, 2021 at 15:08

    “We’ve never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation… that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives,”

    Human rights, yes, but this was not at all part of the founding of the USA.Check again!!!

  4. Michael
    January 27, 2021 at 11:02

    That’s a good start.

    A very simple and straightforward executive order would be to rescind President Nixon’s abomination and remove marijuana from the list of Class A narcotics.

    Additionally, we need to finally abolish slavery in the US, but that’s a long road with the 13th amendment.

Comments are closed.