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Private Prison Industry Goes Down In California As State Bans For-Profit Jails, Including Ice Detention Centers

California lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill banning private prison facilities from operating in the state. The move will also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time, according to The Guardian.

The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California’s past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities.

As noted by The Guardian, private prison companies used to view California as one of their fastest-growing markets. As recently as 2016, private prisons locked up approximately 7,000 Californians, about 5% of the state’s total prison population, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But in recent years, thousands of inmates have been transferred from private prisons back into state-run facilities. As of June, private prisons held 2,222 of California’s total inmate population.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all”.

However, immigration advocates still worry that Ice and its contractors could find a way to circumvent the ban.

“This legislation is the most powerful we’ve had. It’s a very big step,” said Abeln about AB32. “But we know Geo Group and Ice work in secrecy, and they work to circumvent contract laws, so we’re still monitoring things.”

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