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Statement: California Must Lead Nation in Ending Private Incarceration and Detention

by CIYJA STAFF

JUNE 14, 2019

The following statement in support of AB-32 is issued by the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance:

CALIFORNIA– As California policymakers end their summer recess, they will have the opportunity to help lead the nation against private detention centers and prisons. AB-32, which would prohibit the use of all for-profit, private detention facilities in the state, will be making it to the senate floor early September.

The measure, authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, (D-Oakland), gets at the heart of one of the main drivers of mass incarceration in our state and in our country: private prison companies. As the nation begins to wake up to the reality of countless individuals suffering in state-sponsored concentration camps, it is imperative that policy makers take drastic measures in ensuring that no facilities continue to be in operation in our state and in our name. 

Mass incarceration is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Advocates recognize immigration detention as an extension of the for-profit prison industrial complex that disproportionately affects Black communities in the United States. These carceral systems are inextricably tied to the abonimable institution of slavery and the systematic exploitation of people since the country’s founding. 

The caging of many of our communities has led to the illicit prosperity of a few at the expense of all. If we are to demand that the inhumanity of migrant detention must end, we must simultaneously demand that all private cages, be they criminal or civil, be dismantled, and community-led alternatives to incarceration be developed and implemented.

The amended AB-32 introduced by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) aims at doing exactly this. Californians have a right to demand that the sufferings of our communities not be a profiteering mechanism for private prison companies such as GEO Group, who have come into our state to wreak havoc. To make matters worse, private prison companies are shielded from scrutiny as they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or open records laws. Therefore, they are rarely held accountable for their documented track record of inhumane conditions, which federal and independent monitors have routinely exposed.

For years now, GEO Group has been running private concentration camps where migrants have been held up indefinitely with little to no access to their loved ones and the outdoors, and where they are routinely denied medical assistance that oftentimes lead to their deaths. Last month, a thorough report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General highlighted the “egregious” conditions at Adelanto Detention Center, where make-shift nooses were not an uncommon find in the cells. 

At Mesa Verde Detention Facility, a current chicken pox outbreak has led to the isolation of detained individuals forcing them into quarantine, causing them to miss critical court hearings. Chicken pox outbreaks are common at GEO facilities, where medical negligence leads to quarantines that then intervene in immigrants’ due process rights.

GEO Group is attempting to dramatically expand these facilities despite outrage from community members. This is why California, as the state with the largest number of immigrants, must take a stand that reflects our values, and not those of a Florida-based company that is only concerned about its bottom line.

For a while now, the language of “security” and “safety” has been used to criminalize communities of color and disproportionately incarcate them. This administration is now weaponizing these terms to justify the illegitimate detention of migrants seeking refuge,  highlights the malleability of this criminalizing propaganda.

The reality is that there is no need to detain migrants seeking political asylum or otherwise, given that crossing the border without documentation is merely a civil offense. Furthermore, ICE has prosecutorial discretion power to release all immigrants immediately, so that they may fight their legal battles outside of these deplorable conditions. The idea that they must be detained at all is a falsehood that ICE and GEO Group have collaborated in normalizing for the purpose of profiting off of the misery and desperation of migrants. 

We refuse to give into this falsehood and demand that all currently being detained at GEO Group and all other privately operated facilities in California to be immediately released back to their families and communities; we demand all existing GEO Group facilities to be closed down, and kept from ever torturing human beings the way they’re currently doing to migrant communities and other communities of color.

The time is ripe to abolish these for-profit cages in California, and we must meet the extremism of the president by limiting the power he holds to keep our communities hostage for political leverage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

CIYJA STAFF is comprised of immigrant youth across the state of California, fighting for the liberation of all immigrant communities. 

ABOUT OUR CONTENT:

We aim at becoming a platform for directly impacted immigrant youth across California to reclaim their narratives and speak on the issues that most affect them. If you’re interested in submitting an opinion piece or need support in turning your ideas into one, reach out to info@ciyja.org. and specify on the e-mail subject.

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