State Watch

California faces federal lawsuit over its private prison ban

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The U.S. Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against the state of California for banning private prisons, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The lawsuit argues that though California can choose not to contract private prisons in the state, they cannot stop the federal government from operating private prisons. 

“California, of course, is free to decide that it will no longer use private detention facilities for its state prisoners and detainees,” the lawsuit reportedly said. “But it cannot dictate that choice for the federal government, especially in a manner that discriminates against the federal government and those with whom it contracts.”

The bill in question, Assembly Bill 32, took effect Jan. 1 and prohibits new private detention contracts in California, changes to current contracts and plans to phase out existing facilities entirely by 2028.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and proponents of the bill argue that private prisons — which are widely used in the U.S. justice and immigration system — incentivises contractors to incarcerate or detain citizens or migrants. 

The complaint reportedly says the law would require the federal government to transport detainees out of California, which would cost resources and impede agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from their “mission to enforce the immigration laws.”

Last month, corrections corporation GEO Group filed a similar lawsuit against AB 32. The Florida-based company operates and manages prisons and immigrant detention facilities along the U.S./Mexico border. 

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Tags California Gavin Newsom Immigration detention in the United States Private prisons in the United States Privatization

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