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Private prisons get more inmates and federal dollars under Trump
The Trump administration is proposing to cut the Bureau of Prisons workforce by 12-14% while transferring some federal prison inmates to private prisons.
By Rick Docksai
Contributor
Feb 22, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — The Trump administration is expanding private prisons' role in the criminal-justice system. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) staffers received a memo last Thursday stating that agency will start transferring inmates from federal penitentiaries to private ones while it prepares to cut its own workforce by 12-14%. The memo instructed federal prisons' management to identify low-security male inmates eligible for relocation private systems, ostensibly to relieve overcrowding within federal prisons.

President Obama's Justice Department had started phasing private prisons out after the inspector general determined that they were less safe. The incoming Trump administration stopped the phase-out in February 2017, when new Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that private prisons were "essential for meeting the future needs of the federal correctional system."

Lawmakers have warned for years that federal prisons are overcrowded. Some have also expressed concern that the facilities are understaffed, as well. In 2015, then-BOP Director Charles Samuels Jr. told Congress that the system didn't have enough personnel to maintain some programs for inmates, and other federal investigators have warned that presently low staffing levels leave many prison workers vulnerable to assault from inmates.

The upcoming inmate transfers will do nothing to alleviate staffing problems if the administration goes through with further staff cuts, argued Ray Coleman, president of a Florida chapter of the the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, in a statement. He said that federal federal prison workers will be increasingly hampered and suffer more on-the-job hazards as their numbers keep shrinking.

"This administration is setting the [BOP] up for failure," said Coleman. "As violence and recidivism rise, and our staff struggle to meetaccreditation requirements, the line staff will be blamed for these failures, and the administration will point to this as an excuse to contract out our law enforcement role to the private prison industry."