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Biden Moves to End Justice Contracts with Private Prisons

  • January 27, 2021

A descendant of immigrants from Jamaica, Ms. Rice called herself the living embodiment of the American dream and noted that “investing in equity is good for economic growth” and “creates jobs for all Americans.”

One of the orders signed on Tuesday calls on the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prisons, reverting to a policy first adopted in the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden was vice president, and which Mr. Trump reversed.

The order does not end all government contracts with private prisons — administration officials confirmed it would not apply to other agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which contracts with private companies to detain thousands of undocumented immigrants.

“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,” the order reads. “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.”

The housing order directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to more strenuously enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which targets discrimination in home buying. That includes asking the department to review actions under Mr. Trump that sought to weaken some of that enforcement. Last year, as part of Mr. Trump’s attempted appeals to white suburban voters, the department rolled back an Obama-era program meant to fight racial segregation in housing, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

“This represents a clear change of direction that gets us back on track to fulfill the Fair Housing Act,” said Julián Castro, who served as secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama. “It’s sending a very strong signal that it’s a new day when it comes to fair housing and that HUD is going to be aggressive again. In some ways this is the easy part, but it’s a strong first step.”

Mr. Castro said that the housing department was still far behind in terms of the number of personnel it needed to enforce the Fair Housing Act and that nonprofit groups across the country working on fair housing issues should receive federal funding and other resources. But given that the action came on Day 6 of the new administration, he said, it served as a “clear repudiation of Trump’s fear-mongering” about low-income housing invading white suburbs.

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