Congressional leaders push back on Biden’s DOJ’s attack on California private prison ban

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, a congressional letter led by Representatives Norma J. Torres (CA) and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), urged Attorney General Merick Garland drop the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against California’s AB 32 bill banning private prisons. The letter has been signed by 25 members of congress including representative Rashida Tlaib, member of the famous Squad at the House of Representatives. This follows a similar letter submitted to the U.S. DOJ by advocates in March.  

Simultaneously, the California Dignity Not Detention coalition and the California Attorney General doubled down on their defense of AB 32, the groundbreaking California law prohibiting private detention and prison companies from operating in the state. Though a ruling has yet to be announced, advocates and attorneys stand at the ready to ensure its just implementation.

Citing the mismanagement of numerous COVID-19 outbreaks throughout privately-owned detention centers, California properly argued that closing these centers is actually about doing what is right in furtherance of the interest of the health and safety of all Californians.  California as a state has a right to pass laws in the interest of the health and safety of its people, and did exactly that with AB 32.  

Despite promising to alleviate the dangers of private prisons and detention centers, the Biden administration has yet to make any substantive progress. In fact, the United States Department of Justice has continued to try to erode AB-32, a law which couldn’t be more aligned with President Biden’s stated stance on private incarceration. Instead of doubling down on misguided arguments, the U.S. DOJ should drop its challenge immediately.   

As documented in our amicus, filed in partnership with Human Rights Watch and Freedom for Immigrants, as well as another amici submitted by Human Impact Partners, the deplorable conditions and threat to public health is well documented.  For decades now, the increasingly carceral detention system has gotten away with rampant medical neglect of detained immigrants, and questionable acts of violence against their bodies. AB 32 is not just legally sound, it is also morally needed. We believe in a future where care is prioritized over cages.  Communities across California are willing and ready to welcome their loved ones home, where they can have access to medical resources, and legal advice.

This is a national movement. Washington state passed a similar law and similar legislation in pending in several others.    It is imperative that President Joe Biden honor the campaign promise of tackling the private detention industry by dropping the lawsuit. AB 32 is one giant step towards a new vision which is taking hold, spreading from Bakersfield and beyond. A world without these cages is possible and we urge the US Department of Justice to not stand in its way.  .


Congressional Responses:

“Assigning a profit motive to human captivity is immoral and consistently leads to appalling conditions for inmates in these facilities. The State of California has every right to cut ties with this abhorrent industry, yet the Trump Administration sued to hamper those efforts. It’s time for Attorney General Garland to withdraw from this suit that betrays our values as a nation and undermines the will of the people in the Golden State. I’m proud to lead a letter this week with Congressman Grijalva and my Congressional colleagues urging him to do exactly that, and look forward to a prompt response from the Attorney General.”

-Congresswoman. Norma J. Torres (CA)

“For too long, private prison companies have lined their pockets with money made off the pain and suffering of others. Perverse profit incentives have kept people locked up in prisons and detention centers that are rife with abuses and mistreatment. We cannot allow taxpayer dollars to fund such rampant abuses. Mass incarceration destroys lives and tears families and communities apart, and the private prison industry is a driving force behind the mass incarceration crisis disproportionately plaguing immigrants and communities of color in our country. President Biden's administration has an opportunity to make good on his campaign promise and end privatized incarceration."

-Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ) 

“California has led the way on ending the use of private prisons because we know it is wrong for companies to reap profit off of dangerous mass incarceration. We saw the dangers all too clearly when the COVID-19 pandemic sickened hundreds in private ICE facilities. We must uphold our commitment to justice and humane treatment for all people.”

-Senator Alex Padilla (CA)


Media Contact: Juan Prieto | | 510-414-0953