California Is Ending its Use of Private, For-Profit Prisons

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California will ban the use of for-profit, private detention facilities under a new bill that was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last Friday. Under this bill, the ban includes prisons under contract to the federal government that holds immigrants awaiting deportation hearings. 

The private prison industry has long been mired in steep controversy, as some say they encourage over-incarceration due to a profit motive. Gov. Newsom has said that the ban of private prisons does not “reflect our values,” and hopes it will reduce the number of incarcerated individuals for nonviolent crimes. 

The bill was authored by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who said it will practically eliminate almost all immigration detention centers in California in the next year. While the state’s prison system was already well on its way to phasing them out, this serves as the remaining push to finally seal the deal. “We are sending a powerful message that we vehemently oppose the practice of profiteering off the backs of Californians in custody,” Bonta said.

“We are glad and we’re happy. We worked with many organizations to push for an end to private prisons and detention centers in California, and we call it a win,” said Adriana Castro from the American Friends Service Committee. 

California’s state inmate population has been in steady decline in the past few years due to measures that have allowed for easier criminal sentences. Of the state’s 125,000 inmate population, private prisons make up less than 1% of the total inmates. 

While the bill is hailed by activists and California lawmakers, it has received criticism from organizations with ties to the private prison industry. The Geo Group of Adelanto, California said, “States cannot lawfully pass legislation mandating the closure of federal facilities that displease them on the basis of ideological differences.” 

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