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Late-night TV on private prisons: ‘Trump has no idea what he’s talking about’

Late-night hosts took aim at the Trump administration for its controversial healthcare legislation and its plans to revive the for-profit prison industry.

Seth Meyers of NBC began by discussing President Trump’s campaign promises to rejuvenate the economy: “During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to bring back industries that were becoming obsolete or being phased out during the Obama administration, like the coal and steel industry. But one you probably heard less about is the for-profit private prison industry.

“President Obama’s justice department last summer began to phase out the federal use of private prisons, also known as contract prisons,” Meyers explained. “Unlike government-run prisons, these are for-profit private companies that have contracts with state and federal governments, which means that they need people to lock up, because unlike a government facility, private industry cannot survive without customers.”

The host continued: “That’s why the vegan empanada place on your block went out of business but the post office is still there, even though nobody ever went to either of them. That’s exactly why private prisons and detention centers are controversial. To keep them profitable, you have to keep them full.”

Meyers went on to detail a government report released last summer that found private prisons “pose higher security risks, were not cost-effective, and that disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer.”

In spite of those findings, Trump has promised, with the financial backing of private prison companies such as GEO Group, to build more private prisons.

“When asked about criminal justice reform in general,” Meyers said, “Trump seemed to have no idea what he was talking about,” referring to Trump’s convoluted response to a question from Chris Matthews.

“GEO Group also donated $100,000 to Rebuild America Now, a pro-Trump Super PAC,” Meyers said. “So now GEO Group has a contract to build the first new immigrant detention center under the Trump administration in Texas, set to open by the end of next year.”

Meyers continued: “These companies seem to be banking heavily on Trump. The United States already has a greater number of people behind bars than any country in the world. And if you’re surprised that a private prison company donated to his inauguration, remember that his campaign slogans were ‘build a wall’ and ‘lock her up’.”

Stephen Colbert addressed the GOP’s healthcare legislation, the vote for which was delayed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell after failing to amass the necessary votes among Senate Republicans.

He began: “Remember how the Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace Obamacare for seven years now? It’s their most consistent message other than: ‘Turn down that hip-hop racket, you kids.’

“And this is the week, because Senate majority leader and unacknowledged lovechild of Admiral Ackbar has promised he will pass Trumpcare before the July 4 recess,” Colbert explained. “And they have got to, because if they do not pass this now there is a serious danger that someone might read it.”

“There are a lot of good reasons not to have the vote this week,” Colbert said. “McConnell would have lost. Republicans, who were already nervous, ran for the exit after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced that under the GOP plan 22 million people would lose their health coverage. Now to put that number into perspective, if you laid 22 million people end-to-end it would reach Canada, where they could get healthcare.”

“Sunday, that which the ancients call Kellyanne Conway emerged from her chamber of secrets to weigh in on the bill’s cuts to Medicaid,” Colbert continued, addressing Conway’s patently false claim that the bill, which cuts more than $800bn from the program, merely returns it to pre-Obamacare levels and will not affect its recipients.

“It’s like an arsonist saying: ‘I didn’t burn the house down, I just took the ground back to pre-house levels,” Colbert joked.