While the rest of the country is seeing exponential growth in the for-profit prison industry, it’s a signature away from extinction in California.
What is it?
Assembly Bill 32. Under the bill, all contracts with private or for-profit prisons in California would end, effectively making California responsible for incarcerating all it’s prisoners in state-run prisons. A lone exception was added, allowing a contract renewal only if there is a court-ordered population cap, and only until 2028.
All four ICE detention centers in California would also close, and be phased out in the state by 2028, as they are privately run. In June, Assemblyman Rob Bonta added significant amendments to AB 32, to expand the scope of the bill to include the ICE detention facilities.
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.
Who Backed It?
Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).
Assemblyman Bonta, the main driving force behind AB 32, has been calling for an end to privately run prisons for years.
“Profiteering on the backs of people who are incarcerated is not only morally wrong, but inhumane & contrary to our California values,” said Bonta after the bill passed the Assembly last Wednesday. “It’s just the wrong approach to a government service that should be public.”
Immigration rights groups, Civil liberty organizations, the prison guard union, and those for prisoner rights have been among the unlikely hodgepodge of groups supporting the bill.
Some Republicans voted against the bill, and it was opposed by the private prison industry and many law enforcement groups, who feared that passage could lead to dangerous prisoners being let go early because of overcrowded conditions.
While it was opposed at every vote in committees, the Assembly, and the Senate, it passed by big enough margins every time. In the Senate it passed 33-6, with Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) not voting, while in the Assembly vote after an amendment was added it passed 65-11, with Assemblymembers Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), Tyler Diep (R-Westminster), and Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) not voting.
The votes were denounced by the private prison companies, who vowed to fight it.
Governor Gavin Newsom said during his inauguration 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.” And now with AB 32 in front of him, it looks more than likely that he’ll sign.