President Joe Biden has ordered the Department of Justice to end its relationships with private prisons and acknowledge the role the government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies.
During a press conference to sign the orders, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change its “whole approach” on racial equity.
“We must change now,” President Biden said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”
In his run to the White House, Biden promised to address issues of systemic racism, police brutality, and to combat racial injustice. Biden has directed acting attorney general Monty Wilkinson to stop renewing contracts with private prisons.
According to the Sentencing Project, U.S. private prisons incarcerated 121,718 people in 2017. Twenty-two states, including New York, Washington, Oregon, and Utah, do not have a private prison. However, New Mexico houses more than half its prison population in private facilities.
Six states, Arizona (479%), Indiana (310%), Ohio (277%), Florida (199%), Tennessee (117%), and Georgia (110%), have more than exponentially increased their private prison populations since 2000.
The former vice president ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps to promote an equitable fair housing policy.
HUD will now examine the Trump administration’s regulatory actions, including rolling back an Obama-era rule requiring communities that wanted HUD funding to document and report patterns of racial discrimination and bias.
While some praised Biden’s early efforts to address racial inequality and discrimination, others were disappointed that policing was not addressed. Rashard Robinson, the president of Color of Change, expressed his disappointment to the Associated Press.
“President Biden’s executive orders to not renew contracts with for-profit prisons and to investigate housing discrimination wrought by Trump administration policies provide important steps forward, but do not go far enough,” said Robinson, who noted that he had hoped Biden would have moved to reinstate an Obama-era policy barring the transfer of military equipment to local police departments.