California Bans Private Prisons And Immigration Detention Centres

California PrisonsPA

After scores of accusations of poor conditions and abuse, California is cutting ties with for-profit prisons. 

Following a bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday (October 11), all private, for-profit detention facilities, including those used to hold immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, will be banned by 2028.

The newly signed law also prohibits the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from entering into or renewing contracts beginning in 2020 with companies seeking to privately run a prison.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomCameron Frew

Upon taking office in January, Newsom vowed to bring the private prison industry to an end in California – currently, there are four for-profit, private civil detention centers operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the state, with an average daily population of about 3,700 detainees.

As per NBC News, Newsom said in a statement: 

During my inaugural address, I vowed to end private prisons, because they contribute to over-incarceration, including those that incarcerate California inmates and those that detain immigrants and asylum seekers. These for-profit prisons do not reflect our values.

Around 1,600 California inmates are held in three prisons run by Florida-based GEO Group – following the expiration of its contract in 2023, it won’t be able to be renewed.

California Private PrisonsPA

The Adelanto Detention Facility, one of the nation’s largest privately-run detention centres, will also be phased out under the new law.

While the state’s prison system has been phasing them out already, they’ve had to comply with inmate population cap imposed by federal judges.

Immigrant advocates have praised the bill, with Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta – who authored the bill – saying it ‘sends a powerful message’ and it’s a ‘historic moment for California’.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta California Private PrisonsPA

As per CBS News, Bonta said in a press release: 

This is truly a historic moment for California. By ending the use of for-profit, private prisons and detention facilities, we are sending a powerful message that we vehemently oppose the practice of profiteering off the backs of Californians in custody, that we will stand up for the health, safety and welfare of our people, and that we are committed to humane treatment for all.

The new law comes after ICE began expanding detention across the US in line with Trump’s crackdown on immigration.

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An ICE spokesperson told Fox News ‘the only impact would be felt by the residents of California who would be forced to travel greater distances to visit friends and family in custody. The idea that a state law can bind the hands of a federal law enforcement agency managing a national network of detention facilities is wrong.’

However, opponents of for-profit prisons argue that they encourage mass incarceration, as well as the treatment of people as ‘commodities’.

Bonta added: 

These Wall Street-owned for-profit, private facilities inhumanely treat people as commodities.

These companies are incentivised to maximize profits and minimize costs – including the important ‘costs’ of investments in programs, services and rehabilitation efforts that reduce recidivism rates and increase success for Californians upon their re-entry into society.

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