California would phase out the use of private prisons under pending legislation.
AB32 would prohibit new contracts with private prisons and phase out existing contracts over four years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The measure was introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.
Bonta said he introduced the bill because corporations that run private prisons put making money for their shareholders above rehabilitating inmates, according to the March 31 Chronicle article.
“It’s just the wrong approach to a government service that should be public,” Bonta said. The bill is part of his broader goal to move California “away from mass incarceration, from mass warehousing” and refocus on “the rehabilitation side. We’ve lost sight of that over the years.”
Shutting down private prisons will require California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce the state prison population to make room for the 2,000 inmates currently housed in private prisons in Kern and San Bernardino counties, the Chronicle said. This decline will need to be achieved at a time when the 113,656 non-private prison population is only about 3,300 below a federal court-ordered cap, according to the article.
Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned for an end to the use of private prisons in California. His campaign website said that for-profit prisons “contribute to over-incarceration. ” In his in- augural address, he also promised to “end the outrage that is private prisons in the State of California once and for all.”
Newsom spokesman Brian Ferguson wrote in an email: “Addressing inequities in the criminal justice system is among the governor’s top priorities.
“The governor and his staff are also working closely with corrections department officials to reduce the state’s reliance on out-of-state and private prisons to house inmates.
However, there is still more to do, and we’ll be looking at all of our options when the time is right,” Ferguson wrote.
A spokeswoman for the prison guards union said the group “believes the state of California is responsible for people who are tried, convicted and incarcerated … not a private corporation who answers to shareholders.”
California should pay counties to house overflow inmates, Bonta said. However, the California State Sheriff’s Association opposes the bill. Association lobbyist Cory Salzillo said county jails are already overcrowded because of former state prisoners remaining in county jails under realignment. Many of those prisoners are more dangerous, have mental health issues, and serve longer sentences than former county jail inmates, Salzillo said.
Bonta has also proposed legislation to require the state’s public employee and teacher pension funds to divest from private prisons. The retirement system for teachers announced it would do so in November.