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Private Prison Ban in CA Challenged by The GEO Group

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

A new California law banning private prisons statewide has brought in conflict on the federal level with the country's government not being able to incarcerate undocumented individuals in private facilities.

The GEO Group, a private detention company that has their headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida but has facilities in California including a facility in Bakersfield, CA, will be enforced to shut out one of its 7 facilities in the state due to the passing of Assembly Bill 32 that became law on October 11th.  

"This transparent attempt by the state to shut down the federal government's detention efforts within California's borders is a direct assault on the supremacy of federal law, and it cannot stand," The GEO Group states in its lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of California.

As the ban was authorized this month by Governor Newsom, it is an addition to prison reform in order to reduce incarceration.

This law will go into effect January 1st of next year, which would prohibit the renewal of contracts for private prisoners and the housing of prisoners in these for-profit facilities. Private immigration detention centers would also not be allowed to have a renewal in their own contracts with the federal government for transfers after a prisoner's sentencing is finished.

Opponents of the new law, including the California Sheriff's Association, responded that correctional officers would not be allowed to be assisted in preventing “dangerous prisoners” are not to be released from state prisons.  

The GEO Group had made the comparison of their banning enforcement with Maryland's attempt to tax a federal bank in 1816, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional in the 1819 decision McCulloch v. Maryland.

"Like the state of Maryland 200 years ago, the state of California seeks to subvert these principles, asserting the authority to regulate and undermine the United States government in the exercise of sovereign powers undoubtedly within the supreme sphere of federal action," the lawsuit states.

GEO Group made a statement in their argument that the government is the one to have the authority to detain individuals who are convicted of federal crimes and immigration offenses.

"Nor is there any question that the federal government has the authority to contract with private entities with expertise in the operation of detention facilities to carry out its detention responsibilities," the complaint from GEO states.

The company seeks a court order declaring Assembly Bill 32 violates the the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A permanent injunction is requested in order to prevent the state from implementing the new law.

Michael McClellan of Newmeyer & Dillion in Newport Beach, California, represents GEO Group.

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