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DOJ walks back guidance discouraging use of private prisons

By Laura Jarrett CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Department of Justice has rescinded guidance from August that discouraged the use of private prisons.

"This will restore (the Bureau of Prison's) flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs," the Justice Department said in a statement.

In August, then-deputy Attorney General Sally Yates directed the Bureau of Prisons to reduce its use of private prison contracts. In the August memo, she said private prisons had been used to house a prison population that had grown 800% between 1980 and 2013.

But, she said, the population is now on the decline, from 220,000 in 2013 to 195,000 in 2016.

A DOJ official said on background Thursday that the BOP has 12 private prison contracts, housing approximately 21,000 inmates.

In a new memo dated February 21 and released for the first time on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote that the Yates memo "changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system." He directed the bureau to "return to its previous approach."

"This will restore BOP's flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs," the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.

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