Quick Takes: Feds Will End the Use of Private Prisons

* Here is the biggest non-election story of the day:

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote…

The Justice Department’s inspector general last week released a critical report concluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report.

* Meanwhile, out in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a significant ruling this week.

In a potential legal breakthrough for medical marijuana, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department cannot prosecute anyone who grows, supplies or uses the drug for medical purposes under state law because Congress has barred federal intervention.

* This won’t be a very quick take. But I wanted to point out something Sen. Sessions said said today about Trump’s recent “law and order address.”

“That speech was great, and Trump has always been this way,” Sessions, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, said on the Matt & Aunie show on WAPI radio. “He bought an ad — people say he wasn’t a conservative — but he bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that?”

“So he believes in law and order and he has the strength and will to make this country safer,” Sessions added. “The biggest benefits from that, really, are poor people in the neighborhoods that are most dangerous where most of the crime is occurring. And I think people can come to understand that if the message continues to pound away.”

Click on this link to see the Trump ad he was referring to (it was in the NY Daily News, not the NYT). It called for the death penalty for the so-called “Central Park Five.” They were teenagers (Black and Hispanic) who, at the time, hadn’t even gone to trail yet. In the ad Trump wrote this, “Civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins!” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out whose civil rights are expendable and whose safety is not. That has nothing to do with “law and order” and everything to do with racism.

* The Dallas Morning News reports that the rate of women in Texas who die from pregnancy-related causes nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014 (more than 600 such deaths over a 4 year span). Apparently a task force that is set to study the issue isn’t ready to weigh in on the cause. But there’s this…

The rise in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011 coincided with the beginning of major budget cuts in Texas. In September of that year, health care providers across the state began to feel the effects of a family planning budget reduced by two-thirds.

Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said many of the family planning clinics that lost funding or closed were an “entry point into the health care system” for women.

Of course there’s also the fact that Texas refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and currently leads the nation in the number of people who are uninsured at 26%.

* Finally, in case Donald Trump hasn’t done enough yet to scare you from even contemplating him as POTUS, this should do the trick.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.