Wed. 5/22: “YES” on AB 32 – End Private Prisons now!

Action – “YES” on AB 32. CA needs to cut taxpayers’ ties to the corrupt, cruel and incompetent private prison system. 

There is no place in our country for corporations that profit from incarcerating folks, tearing apart families or putting children in cages….” –  Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego)

“Private prisons are a practice that should have never been permitted in California, and it’s time we end their presence, “For-profit prisons do not serve the best interests of Californians nor are they in line with our values. No one should profit off human incarceration, especially after we have refocused our corrections system away from incarceration and towards rehabilitation.” – Assemblymember Todd Gloria.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I’m calling (optional: “as a member of Indivisible”) to ask Assemblymember [___] to support AB -32 to prohibit for-profit prisons in California.

More script if you want it: No one should profit from human incarceration, especially as our state has refocused our corrections system towards rehabilitation.

Contact -Call the number in the title graphic OR  use the info. below.
State Assemblymember Monique Limón: (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
Not your people?findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
Co-sponsors: Bonta, Chiu, Gloria, Gonzalez, Kamlager-Dove, Santiago

Background 

AB -32 – State prisons: private, for-profit administration services prohibits the CA Dept of Corrections & Rehabilitations from entering into or renewing contracts with private, for-profit prisons, starting in 2020. 2028 is set as the date all inmates are transferred to state-owned facilities.

Can this be done? This is doable. California uses only five private facilities to house inmates. Together, the prisons incarcerate only about 3.5% of the state’s total prison population, half of them in state and half in Arizona.

 CA currently contracts with GEO Group and Core Civic (formerly “Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)”) both of which are currently being sued for forced detainee labor.  GEO is also the subject of a class action suit for violating anti-human trafficking laws.

These two companies are also profiting from the Trump’s administration’s cruel immigration policies separating innocent children from their families. Since 2009, thousands of adults and children have been detained in their for-profit, private prison facilities operating outside of San Antonio, Texas. Last month, the California State Teachers’ Retirement Board voted to withdraw the $12.1 million that had been invested in these companies.

The War on Drugs started it all: “…We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – John Ehrichman 1994

In the 1980’s during the Reagan administration, the GOP’s “War on Drugs”, a politically motivated attack on black communities and the anti-war left, exploded the prison population with long mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses. In response to a “market need”, GEO Group was founded in 1984 and Core Civic in 1983, and both have profited from a prisoner increase of over 500% in the last 30 years. An analysis from the Sentencing Project discovered that between 2000 and 2016, the number of people housed in private prisons in the United States increased by 47% compared with an overall rise in the prison population of 9%.

Approximately 27 states have private prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics show for-profit prisons house approximately seven percent of state prisoners. Approximately 9,000 inmates are housed in private prisons in California.

Private prisons make a lot of money:  Private prisons are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States that serve their stockholders best when more people are locked up. Neither GEO or Core Civic passively wait for customers to show up. Their lobbying and campaign donations have led to federal and state policies and government contracts that fatten their  bottom line, often at the expense of the public interest. According to the Justice Policy Institute: “While private prison companies may try to present themselves as just meeting existing ‘demand’ for prison beds and responding to current ‘market’ conditions, in fact they have worked hard over the past decade to create markets for their product.” Although they claim that they have not lobbied for bills that extend or increase sentences for prisoners, for many years Core Civic and GEO Group have participated in the task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that pushed bills that lengthened time in prison, such as so-called “truth-in-sentencing” and “three strikes” legislation, as models for states to adopt across the nation. The original targets of the War on Drugs, black communities, are still suffering from violent policing, and disproportionate rates of incarceration.

They’re not on our side: “The built-in incentives for these businesses are all wrong,” said Bonta. “A private, for-profit company that’s traded on Wall Street will inherently be incentivized to maximize profits and minimize costs—including the important “costs” of investments in programs, services and rehabilitation efforts for inmates– through warehousing our inmates. They have a duty to shareholders, not to California” – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland)

In fact, an GEO SEC filing from 2012 clearly defines these “risk factors” to investors.

  • “[A]ny changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
  • “Reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”
  • “Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.”
  • “Public resistance to privatization of correctional, detention, mental health and residential facilities could result in our inability to obtain new contracts or the loss of existing contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The management and operation of correctional, detention, mental health and residential facilities by private entities has not achieved complete acceptance by either government agencies or the public.”
  • “Public sector demand for new privatized facilities in our areas of operation may decrease and our potential for growth will depend on a number of factors we cannot control, including overall economic conditions, governmental and public acceptance of the concept of privatization, government budgetary constraints, and the number of facilities available for privatization.”
  • “The demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services, electronic monitoring services, community-based re-entry services and monitoring and supervision services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.”
  • “Various factors outside our control could adversely impact the growth of our GEO Community Service business, including government customer resistance to the privatization of mental health or residential treatment facilities, and changes to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement programs.”
  • “[M]ost of our revenues are generated under facility management contracts which provide for per diem payments based upon daily occupancy…. Under a per diem rate structure, a decrease in our occupancy rates could cause a decrease in revenues and profitability.”

They’ve perfected their recipe for harm: Their profit-increasing strategies constitute a vicious cycle where lower wages and benefits for workers, high employee turnover, insufficient training, and chronic understaffing can lead to mistreatment of inmates, increased violence, security concerns, and riots. Profit-focused measures that affect inmates, such as withholding medical care or inadequate nutrition, add to the volatility to prisons, which, in turn, has led to dangerous working conditions for correctional staff. As a result,  private prisons are more violent than state-run facilities, with twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults and 28% more inmate-on-inmate assaults. A 2010 state inpestor general report stated that the La Palma Correctional Center, a CA prison located in AZ,  abused solitary confinement regulations, provided insuffient services and had numerous security issues.

No one is watching them: They are, for some reason, also exempt from basic oversight, such as the federal Freedom of Information Act and the California Public Records Act. Both GEO and Core Civics have been sued for substandard medical care and treatment of inmates. A 2016 Justice Department report verified the inadequate care. CoreCivic’s history also includes allegations of falsifying records, fraudulently billing Medicaid, violating labor laws, and all around “cutting-corners.” Boom and bust cycles in prison population cause financial ruin for some small towns.

Their main premise isn’t true. They don’t actually save much, if any, money. An investigation into AZ prisons showed that not only did private prisons generally cost the same as state-run facilities, but sometimes costing up to $1,600 more per inmate a year. And like charter school operators, private prisons also push down costs by picking and choosing who they take, in their case by leaving  seriously ill prisoners or violent ones for state-run prisons.

CA’s prisoners are not widgets. During the overcrowding crisis a decade ago, California inmates were being shipped to private prisons as far away as Oklahoma and Mississippi. California continues to have 1,400 inmates at a CoreCivic prison in Eloy, Ariz. This disrupts the prisoners’ relationships with their families, one of the important aspects to their transition back to the outside world.

Their secondary promises of rehabilitation aren’t true either. They also do not spend their investors’ profits on rehabilitation. “With one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, California needs to invest in rehabilitation, not corporate profits. Private, for-profit prisons have a duty to their corporate shareholders to return large profits at every turn, which makes it nearly impossible to spend the resources necessary to genuinely rehabilitate someone.  I applaud Assemblymember Bonta for working to phase out this harmful industry in California.” – Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

It’s time we redirect our criminal justice system to value and prioritize effective prison rehabilitation programs, which will help minimize recidivism rates and maximize successes for inmates upon their reentry into society” – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland)

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