Opponents of private detention centers want amnesty for illegal immigrants

In August 2016, the Office of the Inspector General (Department of Justice) published a Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons, which examined conditions at prisons managed by private companies with contracts from the federal government. The document stated that the contract prisons reported a 28 percent higher average of inmate-on-inmate assaults, compared to Bureau of Prisons institutions. The OIG also claimed to have found that in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions.

That same month, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates sent a memorandum to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, directing that as each contract with a privately-operated prison reached the end of its term, the BOP should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope. Yates explained: They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of lnspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.

Yates’ memo did not apply to state prisons, in which the vast majority of the incarcerated in America are housed, nor did it officially apply to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Jeff Sessions' reverse-course

Following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, there was an immediate reverse-course. In February of 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent another memorandum to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, rescinding the memorandum sent by Sally Yates half a year earlier. In reference to the move made by the Obama administration, Jeff Sessions wrote The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correction system.

Please note the emphasis on the practical need for physical detention facilities to exist. Gary E. Mead, a former associate director of the U.S. Marshal Service, has pointed out that private prisons came about in the first place because federal and state governments were unable or unwilling to fund new prison construction, in order to keep pace with increasing inmate populations.

In April, the Florida-based GEO Group announced that it would build a $110 million immigrant detention complex in Conroe, Texas, as part of a 10-year, renewable contract with ICE.

California Assembly Bill 32

There exists a belief among socialists or those leaning towards socialism that there is something inherently immoral about allowing people to profit from running prisons. Moreover, there exists a suspicion that the profit motive creates a demand to fill prison space, not to mention the potential corrupting influence of private competition for government contracts to operate prison facilities.

In his January 7, 2019 inaugural address, California Governor Gavin Newsom proudly declared:

In our home, we believe in justice for all. We will defend the progress we’ve made to reform our criminal justice system. We will continue the fight against over-incarceration and over-crowding in our prisons. And we will end the outrage that is private prisons in the state of California once and for all.

A measure to accomplish exactly that was pushed by California Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) in 2017, but the bill was vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown, who said that the state needed to maintain maximum flexibility in the short term in order to comply with a cap set on the total number of state prison inmates by a panel of federal judges in 2009.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced a similar bill in 2019, and this time it became law. Assembly Bill 32, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 11, will prevent California from entering into or renewing contracts with private prison companies after January 1, 2020, and will phase out all such facilities by 2028. The ban covers immigrant detention centers for which management is contracted out by ICE.

Compliance with AB-32 could cost more than $100 million a year, according to California Senate Appropriations Committee findings. This fiscal year, the average cost per inmate in a California state prison is nearly $85,000, while for a private prison the cost is only about $31,000 per inmate.

Reduced capacity for detained aliens is a probable result of California's decision

On November 9, the Los Angeles Times published a report packaged as a “shocking exposé”: ICE may circumvent California’s ban on private immigrant detention centers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have accelerated the contract renewal process for four ICE detention centers in California, in order to beat the year-end deadline imposed by AB-32.

Is that or is that not a shocking exposé?

The following text is from the Los Angeles Times article:

An ICE spokesman previously said that the agency would continue detaining immigrants in California as usual and would simply transfer them to facilities out of state.

Hamid Yazdan Panah, an immigration lawyer in the Bay Area, said it would be logistically difficult and expensive for ICE to transfer every immigrant detained in California to other states. He thinks the solicitation illustrates the agency’s realization that AB 32 will limit the number of people it can detain.

It's likely that AB-32 will cause a reduction in the total amount of detention capacity for illegal aliens detained by ICE. Following the principle that the original intention is revealed by the most likely practical result, it is logical to conclude that opponents of contract immigrant detention facilities aim, ultimately, to eliminate ICE detention centers.

The decent residents of California who oppose these measures should hope that similar intentions won't extend one day to violent criminals in state prisons — although they probably will.