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California Bans For-Profit Prisons and Immigrant Detention Centers

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Friday that bans for-profit, private prisons including immigrant detention centers by 2028, becoming the first state to do so.


Starting on Jan. 2020, the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will not be able to enter into or renew a contract with a private, for-profit prison. Operating a private immigration detention facility and incarcerating people in for-profit prisons will be prohibited after Jan. 2028.

According to CNN, the state currently has four contracts with for-profit, private prison companies for criminal detention and four civil detention centers operated by private companies in the state. The prisons and detention facilities house more than 1,400 inmates and 4,000 detainees, respectively, per CBS News.

“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,” California Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who authored the bill, said in a statement.

As a result, Reuters reports that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will lose four privately run detention facilities holding roughly 4,000 people in California.


“People were tired of this ridiculous notion that somehow the city was prosperous because of these private prisons when in fact private prisons prey on vulnerable cities like Adelanto,” Lizbeth Abeln of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice said during a press conference. “We are joining a national effort, and California is leading this, in which we are going to divest from these abusive systems.”

Adelanto Detention Facility, located in San Bernardino County,  is one of the nation’s largest immigrant detention facilities and in 2018, the Office of the Inspector General found the living condition to be “egregious.”

“The inspection at the Adelanto facility revealed significant health and safety risks, including nooses in detainee cells, improper and overly restrictive segregation, and inadequate detainee medical care,” a report by the office stated.

According to data from the Urban Justice Center’s Corrections Accountability Project, in 2018, ICE reportedly had 41,134 people in detention and as many as 72 percent of those people are held in privately owned facilities — mainly managed by GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) which earned a combined $985 million from contracts with ICE in 2017, GQ reports.

Further, the report found that health care, telephone, services, transportation, ankle monitoring, drug testing, and food services are outsourced to companies through lucrative contracts.

ICE cannot simply contract with third parties to operate its detention centers and then wash its hands of the deplorable, unlawful conditions in those detention centers,” Tim Fox, co-executive director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center said after immigrants filed a lawsuit this summer due to lack of medical care and accommodations for disabled migrants.

In Adelanto, owned by GEO Group, seven suicide attempts between December 2016 and October 2017 were reported, with at least one death. A Daily Beast investigation found that in 2018, for-profit immigration detention was a nearly $1 billion industry underwritten by taxpayers.


On the other hand, the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and the Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Calexico, are operated by CoreCivic and the Management and Training Corporation, respectively. The Imperial facility can hold up to 704 people, and the Otay Mesa detention center has a capacity of 896.

ICE spokesperson Paige D. Hughes said they’ll now have to find a new place to house immigrants, further away from where they were arrested.

However, many are applauding the move saying it’ll prevent California-based for-profit prisons from benefiting financially from prisoners and detainees and perpetuating harsh and sometimes cruel living conditions.