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US prison population will increase under Trump

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Subject

Politics of the US criminal justice system.

Significance

On February 23, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memorandum issued by his predecessor aimed at phasing out Department of Justice contracts with companies for operating private prisons. Stocks of these companies rose following President Donald Trump's November 2016 election win, and his administration is pursuing policies that will increase the size of the incarcerated population.

Impacts

  • Election-driven pressures to cut costs will dissuade officeholders from funding recidivism-reducing education and job programmes.
  • Lack of competition in the private prison sector will undercut market mechanisms for better service delivery at lower cost.
  • Voters are likely to focus on memorable high-profile crimes when establishing policy preferences rather than overall statistical declines.
  • Conservatives are more likely to overestimate crime trends than liberals, which will limit political dividends for pro-reform Republicans.
  • Federal detention of gang members and deportation to their countries of origin could consolidate transnational criminal networks.

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