On April 1, 2016, California State Senator Ricardo Lara, in collaboration with co-sponsors, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), unveiled landmark immigration legislation designed to stop local governments from being complicit in the detention of undocumented immigrants for profit through the signing and renewal of contracts with private prison companies. SB 1289, or “The Dignity not Detention Act,” was conceived to protect detained immigrants in California, and represents one of few attempts to curtail the disturbing expansion of the prison-industrial complex in the United States.
In an interview with the LA Times, Lara said, “The Dignity not Detention Act takes a stand against the mass incarceration of immigrants in detention facilities and inhumane immigration detention conditions. Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering.”
The Prison-Industrial Complex
Today, private prison companies have been allowed to make billions of dollars through the detention of immigrants, who account for more than 60 percent of all detention beds in the country, with the majority of these beds centered in California and other border states. Multiple contracts between local governments and private prisons even stipulate local quotas, ensuring these beds are filled at all times.
SB 1289 is a crucial step in the fight against the privatization of mass incarceration, putting an end to a system showing a clear conflict of interest, one that incentivizes the unfair detention of immigrants with little regard to their basic human rights. The bill is a direct challenge to the practice of city governments acting on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and negotiating contracts with for-profit prison companies.
Ultimately, Lara says the bill’s goal is to shut down private prison facilities in California and allow detained immigrants to file civil actions against the prison’s operators if their rights are violated.
ICE Contracts with Private Prisons
The ICE currently holds contracts with four private prison facilities in California alone, holding around 3,700 detainees on a daily basis, including undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, green card holders, and individuals waiting for their hearings in immigration courts. These facilities have been the subject of numerous complaints from civil right groups, who have reported inmates being denied proper medical care, medication, and proper meals for detainees with injuries and illness.
The Lara bill would help ensure remaining prison facilities observe the humane treatment of detainees, requiring these detention facilities to follow national immigration detention standards, which have often been regarded as mere guidelines in California and have thus been routinely violated.
Private prisons are especially problematic because they are not included in the Freedom of Information Act—meaning they operate with little to no government oversight. If passed into law, The Dignity Not Detention Act would make California the first state in the country to ensure basic humane treatment of detained immigrants.
To learn more about how this act will affect immigrant rights, talk to legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215.5225.