Advocacy group sues Justice for prison policy files

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Washington-based advocacy group sued the Justice Department Tuesday for failing to turn over records that the group contends could shed light on the Trump administration’s dealings with private prison companies as it forms new policies on incarceration.

The Democracy Forward Foundation, a group with Democratic party ties, wants to know the background on the administration’s plans on prison reform and whether it may be influenced by the private prison industry.

The foundation filed a request last May under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act for records relating to the administration’s prison policy discussions, but it claims in the lawsuit that its request was stymied by delays and bureaucratic barriers from Justice and U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Several of the foundation’s board members are major Democratic party figures.

The foundation said the agencies failed their duty under the federal act to “conduct a reasonable search for responsive records.”

In its lawsuit, the foundation noted that since March 2017, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, has led White House efforts to develop criminal justice policy, including changes to the prison system. Kushner was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. A Kushner spokesman did not immediately reply to an Associated Press emailed request for comment.

President Barack Obama’s administration had ordered prison officials to lessen the government’s reliance on private prisons. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed that decision in February 2017, warning of a growing prison population.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment about the lawsuit.

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