SAN DIEGO – The federal government Friday sued California over the state’s private prisons ban, claiming the new law is unconstitutional, discriminates against the federal government and obstructs its ability to carry out operations.
AB 32, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year and effective Jan. 1, prohibits the operation of private detention facilities within the state.
But the private prisons ban wasn’t just written to address California’s previous reliance on private prisons to alleviate overcrowding in state-run facilities; the bill’s author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, said in a statement after Newsom signed the bill that it was purposely aimed at federally contracted private prisons along the U.S.-Mexico border housing immigrant detainees.
“We’ve all seen the horrific humanitarian crisis playing out along the border. No human being deserves to be held in the well-documented cruel conditions in these for-profit, private facilities. For that reason, AB 32 was expanded to cover civil detention facilities as well as prisons,” Bonta said in a statement.
Arguing it was targeted by the new private prisons ban, the Trump administration asked a judge Friday to bar California from enforcing AB 32 against the federal government and the private prisons it contracts with.
“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,” the government argues in its 17-page lawsuit filed in the Southern District of California.
The federal government also complains five exemptions written into AB 32 apply only to state contracts, and not to those held by the federal government. Among the exemptions are juvenile facilities and residential care facilities.
This is a developing story.
— By Bianca Bruno