During Governor Gavin Newsom’s inaugural address in January 2019, he vowed that he would get rid of the private prison industry in California, calling for an end of the “outrage of private prisons once and for all.”
In October 2019, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 32 into law, to phase out the use of private prisons. On January 1, 2020, AB 32, became law and eliminated all contracts with private or for-profit prisons in the state.
Bill analysis describes the real intent of AB 32: “This bill abolishes, in line with California’s interest in ensuring the safety and welfare of its residents, the private for-profit prison industry from our state in order to protect incarcerated individuals from serious harm within our state border.”
The California State Sheriffs’ Association opposed AB 32: “Removing CDCR’s authority to contract with private prisons takes away a tool and increases the likelihood of releases of dangerous inmates from state prison and heightens pressure to have county jails take on more custodial capacity that would otherwise be housed in state prison.”
All four ICE detention centers in California would also close. This was added as an amendment to AB 32, along with phasing out all private prisons in California by 2028. The push to close the facilities is coming from the ACLU, and fringe radical groups Kern Youth Abolitionists, and California Immigrant Youth.
The problem with AB 32, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Contra Costa), is multi-faceted. Private prisons, while a for-profit business, still cost less per prisoner than California’s state owned prisons.
The change could cost California more than $100 million a year, according to the 08/12/19- Senate Appropriations committee analysis. The average cost per inmate in a California state prison is $84,848, while the contract rate varies per facility but averages around $26,600 per person for the men’s contract facilities and is $35,232 per inmate at the women’s contract facility, according to bill analysis.
Additionally, thousands of good paying jobs in prisons in Adelanto and McFarland would be lost – mostly held by Latino and African American employees – in cities with little to no other industry.
“There is hope that these jobs can be saved, as long as cities are willing to fight for their economic wellbeing,” Inside Sources reported. “Their communities are depending on them to do so.”
CA cities fight Newsom’s destructive prison shutdown with ICE reuse plan
Residents of Adelanto in San Bernardino County, as well as McFarland in Kern County, are already feeling the pain of Gov. Newsom’s actions against privately-run corrections facilities. This pain includes aggressive pressure by the ACLU and fringe radical groups on city councils to force agreements to shut the facilities down.
McFarland already has a 37 percent poverty rate, while Adelanto’s is just over 35 percent. Hundreds of high-paying jobs would be cut, along with the significant tax revenue which currently supports these struggling communities.
While the 4,000 prisoners currently in private prisons would be transferred to other state prisons, it’s unknown what would happen to the immigrants currently held in ICE detention centers.
In 2016, the Obama administration announced it would phase out its use of some private prisons. “In a memo to the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told it to start reducing “and ultimately ending” the Justice Department’s use of private prisons,” the Associated Press reported.
However, in early 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration later reversed the decision, Reuters reported.
In January, the Federal Government filed a lawsuit naming Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the State of California for banning the operation of private detention facilities, a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The complaint says California “cannot dictate that choice for the Federal Government, especially in a manner that discriminates against the Federal Government and those with whom it contracts.”
Gov. Newsom is accused of overstepping his authority by passing AB 32 and phasing out federal ICE detention facilities, California Globe reported. “Without private detention facilities, AB 32, according to the complaint, would cripple the U.S. Marshals Services in California, especially in the Southern District of California. USMS would need to relocate nearly 50% of its inmates in the Southern District of California and nearly 30% of its inmates across California.” Many say this is the exact purpose of the move to eliminate private prisons.
“…the Federal Government has long contracted with private detention facilities to house federal prisoners and detainees, and it plans to continue that practice in order to address serious needs for detention space in California and elsewhere. The Federal Government must be allowed to make these policy choices without interference from the several States.”
“The United States also has full authority to house federal detainees when exercising its constitutional power as a sovereign to control and conduct relations with foreign nations,” the lawsuit states. “Congress has exercised its authority to make laws governing the admission, entry, presence, status, and removal of aliens within the United States by enacting various provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other laws regulating immigration.”
The GEO Group filed a similar lawsuit in in San Diego Federal Court in January. The GEO Group is a company based in Florida that owns and operates private detention facilities nationwide including the Western Region Detention Center in San Diego.
Next: Undue pressure put on city councils of Adelanto and McFarland to vote for the prison closures.