Just a few months ago, things were looking very bleak for the private prison industry. In mid-August, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a report finding that privately operated federal prisons are more dangerous than those managed by the federal Bureau of Prisons and need more oversight. Within a week, the Justice Department announced it would phase out private prisons to house federal inmates. Later that month, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would evaluate whether detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement should move in the same direction. Not surprisingly, shares of the nation’s private prison companies tanked.
But Trump’s win has turned the prospects for private prisons around almost immediately. Trump’s racially charged law-and-order rhetoric, and his promise to deport or incarcerate millions of immigrants — with the help of a like-minded attorney general, Jeff Sessions — have breathed new life into the industry.