New Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era memo that directed the Justice Department to reduce the use of private prisons, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports
Sessions writes in the order that returning to the Bureau of Prisons' earlier approach would provide flexibility.
"The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system," Sessions writes.
Outside companies currently house about 21,000 inmates for the Justice Department, the agency reports, down from a peak of 30,000. The overall federal prison population has been falling in recent years because of changes in how some low-level offenders are sentenced.
In announcing a phasing out of private-prison use in August, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote that the outside companies' facilities were less safe, more expensive, and "simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs and resources."