You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Why it’s troubling that Jeff Sessions just appointed a former general to lead civilian prisons.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Recently retired Army Maj. General Mark Inch will lead the Federal Bureau of Prisons, The Hill reported on Tuesday. Inch will oversee federal prisons that incarcerate 187,315 individuals. From The Hill:

“General Mark Inch has served this country at home and abroad for 35 years,” Sessions said in a statement.

“As a military policeman for nearly a quarter of a century and as the head of Army Corrections for the last two years, General Inch is uniquely qualified to lead our federal prison system.”

But there are several reasons to fear Inch’s appointment. The first is most obvious: He has never managed a civilian prison. He oversaw detainee operations in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, and dedicated his entire career to military policing. And though he retired in May, his appointment is just the latest evidence that the Trump administration has something of a fetish for generals, which could further erode long-standing distinctions between military and civilian leadership.

It is also disturbing, though not particularly surprising, that Inch is a Sessions hire. Sessions is committed to the war on drugs; he is intent on expanding police power in dangerous ways. It seems entirely likely that he believes a former general with decades of experience in military policing shares his draconian approach to law enforcement.

And like Sessions, Inch has ties to the religious right. He attended Wheaton College, where he majored in “biblical archaeology,” and served as commanding general of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri when David Barton spoke at the fort’s National Day of Prayer breakfast. (Barton, for the unfamiliar, has dedicated his entire career to promoting the debunked idea that America was founded on fundamentalist Christian principles; he routinely invents religious quotes that he then attributes to various Founding Fathers.) In a March 30 interview with MP Project Junto, Inch also credited a “faith-based Christian counselor” for helping him recover from the stress of a deployment to train Somali police.

It’s fine, of course, if Inch seeks faith-based counseling in his personal life. But religious groups already cross First Amendment boundaries to proselytize prisoners. Inch’s record does not inspire confidence that he will maintain those boundaries, and his appointment may well prove to be another victory for the religious right.