Mesa Verde (copy)

GEO Group Inc. is a private company that operates Mesa Verde.

The company that operates the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center has sued the state to stop the implementation of a law that would close for-profit detention facilities throughout California.

GEO Group Inc., which has operated the 400-bed Mesa Verde facility in Bakersfield since 2015, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Diego on Monday. If the company gets its way, a judge could rule Assembly Bill 32 unconstitutional, allowing for-profit prisons to remain open in California against lawmakers’ wishes.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 32 in October, with the intention of phasing out the state’s use of private prisons by 2028. The law prevents the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from entering into contracts with private prisons and it bans changes to existing contracts.

The lawsuit claims legislators used the bill as a transparent response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. GEO said in the lawsuit that the bill itself challenged the authority of the federal government.

“There is a longstanding and clear-cut constitutional principle that individual states cannot regulate the actions and activities of the federal government,” a GEO representative said in an email. “Our challenge to AB-32 is based on the well-established legal doctrine that it is unconstitutional for a state law to prohibit the lawful operations of the federal government or its contractors.”

The law could affect at least 10 facilities in California used by the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the lawsuit, including one in Bakersfield.

Kern County would see a drastic increase in the amount of immigrants held by ICE within its borders if GEO is allowed to continue to operate. The company recently signed a contract with the federal agency to use two private prisons in McFarland for immigrant detention.

In the contract, which lasts until 2034, GEO would use the Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility and the Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility to hold immigrants for ICE. The facilities had previously been under contract with CDCR to hold prisoners, but with the state backing out of its use of private prisons, they could be used to hold those arrested by ICE.

Each of the facilities have a capacity of 700, meaning Kern County could go from holding about 400 immigrants at Mesa Verde to 1,800.

Activists have condemned the lawsuit as well as GEO’s continued use of facilities in California.

“This lawsuit is yet another shameless attempt by the GEO group to protect its ill-gotten profits, safeguard illicit contracts which violates state and federal law, and undercut the will of the people,” the immigrant rights group Dignity Not Detention wrote in a statement. “Our tax dollars should not pay for immigrants’ suffering.”

GEO said in the lawsuit it would lose about $250 million per year for 15 years if AB 32 forced it to close the private facilities. That’s on top of $300 million the company says it spent purchasing and constructing the sites themselves.

In total, the company claims it could lose $4 billion in capital investments if AB 32 holds.

Newsom has defended the state’s desire to close private prisons. His office told state media it would review the complaint.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

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(5) comments

Comment deleted.
Gene Pool Chlorinator


"Reality" shows aren't...


"Apples-to-Fish: Public and Private Prison Cost Comparisons"

(Alex Friedmann published in Prison Legal News October, 2016)

"It sounds like such a simple question: do private prisons save money? The answer, however, is dependent on a number of factors – including how “saving money” is defined."

"Although this article focuses on private prisons, that is not to imply that public prisons are without their problems and faults; further, issues related to prison privatization are tied to the larger problem of mass incarceration in the United States, considering that the vast majority of correctional facilities are operated by public – local, state and federal – agencies."

"Considering the numerous and complicated factors involved in cost comparisons of public and privately-operated facilities, and the corresponding difficulties in conducting such studies, it is possible that we are simply asking the wrong question."

"The right one may be: should we incarcerate people in private, for-profit prisons even if they do save money?"

"Regardless, to paraphrase the late Richard Culp, Associate Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, if three decades of experience with and research related to prison privatization have not led to demonstrable cost savings or quality of service outcomes, resulting in the continued need for articles such as this one, then we need to take a different approach relative to our nation’s carceral policies, practices and priorities."

"Ed. Note: In August 2016, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report that was sharply critical of privately-operated federal prisons, finding higher levels of violence and use of force incidents, and questionable cost savings (see the following article). Based in part on that report, on August 18, 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates issued a memo stating the government would begin reducing and ultimately ending the use of private facilities to house federal prisoners. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.28]."

Masked 2020

but lots and lots of taxpayers dollars are being spent to run these private for profit detention prisons that house undocumented folks....pretty sure my x # of times grandpa of ago.... Amos Rogers back in the Revolution never heard of ICE or for profit detention centers...but then he was fighting against the tyranny of folks like Donald

Gene Pool Chlorinator

You make my head hurt...


“Our tax dollars should not pay for immigrants’ suffering.”

Maybe our tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on the citizens of other nations at all actually. I know when I drive by the homeless camp on Stockdale, I can’t help but think that we should spend more tax payer money on other countries citizens while we ignore our own. It’s the American way and definitely what the founding fathers had in mind when they enacted the immigration act of 1791z

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