WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Joe Biden is taking steps to end the use of private prisons by the Department of Justice to house federal inmates, officials said on Tuesday (Jan 26).
Susan Rice, Biden's Domestic Policy Adviser, said the president will sign an executive order later on Tuesday directing the department not to renew contracts with private prisons.
"Private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners and are proven to be, or found to be, by the Department of Justice inspector-general, to be less safe for correctional officers and for prisoners," Rice told reporters at a White House briefing.
"President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer," she said.
"That starts with ending the federal government's reliance on private prisons."
The move to stop using private prisons to house federal inmates is one of several criminal justice reforms proposed by Biden.
Biden has pledged to reduce mass incarceration in the United States and the disproportionate number of minorities behind bars.
Ending the use of private prisons to house federal inmates would have only a limited impact.
Only 116,000 of the more than two million prisoners in the United States are housed in private prisons - 7 per cent of those held by the states and 16 per cent of those held in federal prisons.
Private prison operators first emerged in the United States in the 1980s when the prison population began to explode, notably because of the war on drugs.
Towards the end of his presidency, Barack Obama also sought to do away with federal use of private prisons but Donald Trump increased their use and even extended it to the detention of illegal immigrants.
The executive order to be signed by Biden would not concern those facilities.