DOJ Files Lawsuit Against California After The State Bans Private Prisons

The state bill, which went into effect January 1, bans new private detention contracts or changes to current contracts in California.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the state of California on January 24, claiming its recent ban on private prisons is unconstitutional, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The lawsuit is over Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), which bans new private detention contracts or changes to current contracts in California. It also plans to phase existing facilities by 2028. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed the bill into law last year, and it went into effect January 1.

“California, of course, is free to decide that it will no longer use private detention facilities for its state prisoners and detainees. 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,” attorneys for the DOJ lawsuit reportedly said.

Specifically, the bill prohibits the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from starting or renewing contracts with private, for profit-prisons or detention centers, as well as incarcerating inmates in private prisons.

In the lawsuit, the federal government argues that it can constitutionally decide which parties it enters into contracts with to enforce federal criminal laws, The Jurist reported. The DOJ also argues that taxpayers would have to fund the relocation of detained immigrants away from private facilities.

Gov. Newsom and other supporters of the bill have argued that operating private prisons and detention centers incentivizes higher incarceration rates and mistreatment of inmates.

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