Feds Sue California, Contesting Ban on Private Prisons

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The federal government has sued California over its ban on private prisons, claiming the new law is unconstitutional, discriminates against the federal government and obstructs its ability to carry out operations, reports Courthouse News Service. A bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom prohibits the operation of private detention facilities within the state effective Jan. 1. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta said it was aimed at federally contracted private prisons along the U.S.-Mexico border housing immigrant detainees. He said, “No human being deserves to be held in the well-documented cruel conditions in these for-profit, private facilities.”

In the federal lawsuit, officials argue that California cannot dictate a choice of detention facilities “for the federal government, especially in a manner that discriminates.” Private prison company The GEO Group sued the state over the new law in December, claiming it would be forced to shut down at least one of its facilities containing 5,727 beds. Detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which can house 5,000 immigrant detainees in private detention facilities in California, is the most affected by the law. Federal officials cited the 44,000 immigrants detained in fiscal year 2019 in California who “would ultimately need to be relocated to neighboring states” under the California law. Transporting immigrant detainees would place “an enormous strain” on ICE air and ground transportation and could “adversely impact detainees’ ability to timely collect evidence if they have family or friends in California,” the lawsuit says. The government says its detention population in California is projected to increase 25 percent by fiscal year 2023.

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