Last night’s Democratic debate was filled with fireworks and personal attacks, before voters head to the polls in South Carolina on Saturday. Former Vice President Joe Biden touted his record in the Senate and in the Obama Administration, and spent a good chunk of time attacking Tom Steyer on criminal justice and prison policy. In a heated exchange, VP Biden accused Steyer of complicity in the mass incarceration:
“You talk about concerns about race. My good friend on the end of this platform, he, in fact, bought a system that was a private prison system after he knew that, in fact, what happened was they hogtied young men in prison here in this state. They, in fact, made sure that in Georgia they did not have health care for the people who were being held. They, in fact, went on, and he said, after he knew that, he bought it. And then he said he was proud of his accomplishment,” Biden said.
Biden is referring to Steyer’s hedge-fund large-scale investment in Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s biggest prison company, which is now rebranded as CoreCiv. CCA has drawn criticism for alleged corruption and mistreatment.
Biden focused his attack on Steyer’s investment in private prisons, but the former vice president’s own administration was also highly invested in private prisons via Corrections Corporation of America. The Obama Administration landed a 1 billion dollar contract with CCA in order to deal with the Central American migrant crisis, per The Washington Post:
“...the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum. The four-year, $1 billion contract — details of which have not been previously disclosed — has been a boon for CCA, which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility…”
It is unclear whether Biden’s blatant hypocrisy was intentional, or if the former vice president forgot about important policies implemented by the administration in which he served for eight years. Policies aside, Biden’s attack on Steyer was hypocritical, in the middle of a debate that preludes a primary that is Biden’s last real chance at the Democratic nomination.