Lawyers for California’s legislature say government contracts set to ship hundreds of inmates to four private prisons out of state beginning next month were unconstitutional, the Los Angeles Times reports. The opinion casts a shadow over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to relieve the prison crowding crisis by housing some inmates in lockups run by private firms. The opinion said that, with certain exceptions, the state may not contract out services that have traditionally been performed by public employees.
Corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said that “obviously we looked at all the legal implications – including constitutionality – before moving forward with this.” State Sen. Gloria Romero, head of a committee on the correctional system, said the governor should cancel the contracts and “solve our prison crisis within our own state borders.” The state has signed agreements totaling $153 million to incarcerate 2,260 inmates at privately run prisons in Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arizona. The contracts are with GEO Group Inc. of Florida and Correctional Corp. of America.