California’s Private Prisons Ban Mostly Survives U.S. Challenge

California’s law to eliminate the use of privately operated prisons in the state mostly survived an initial challenge by the federal government and Geo Group Inc.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino in San Diego on Thursday declined to halt enforcement of the law until its legality is resolved, with the exception of the U.S. Marshals Services’ use of private facilities which she said is clearly authorized by Congress when the number of detainees exceeds the available capacity of government facilities.

California Governor Gavin Newsom last year signed the bill that will end the use of for-profit prisons in the state by 2028, saying that they contribute to “over-incarceration.” Geo Group has said said it could lose more than $4 billion in capital investment and future revenue over the next 15 years if it has to close its Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Services detention facilities in California.

The judge said the Bureau of Prisons had no cause to challenge the California law because the only privately operated prison it uses in the state has been closed for repairs and it wasn’t clear when it would be used again.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on the other hand, has four detention facilities in California, all of which are privately run. Geo Group operates two of the ICE facilities and has contracts to turn three additional facilities into ICE detention centers.

Representatives of Boca Raton, Florida-based Geo Group and the Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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