By Jose Servin, Guest Columnist (California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance)
Orange County isn’t home to any private prisons that detain immigrants, but it helped inspired the fight against them in the form of Assembly Bill 32. Nearly a decade of activism pressured the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to finally sever ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at two of the worst detention centers it did business with: James A. Musick in Irvine and Theo Lacy in Orange.
Multiple reports by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California detailed horrid examples of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment on behalf of OC sheriff deputies at Musick and Theo Lacy. Additionally, visits by Attorney General Xavier Becerra detailed instances of spoiled meat being served, moldy showers, and terrible conditions, in general.
Despite his feigned outrage, Becerra did nothing to remedy the situation.
It took those ten years of radical action, angry visits to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, protests, stories and community action to sever ICE’s business contracts.
In the city of Adelanto, the same situation persists, albeit in a private prison. Despite testimony from detainees about torturous conditions inside Adelanto Detention Center and a visit from the attorney general, nothing has been done. Six people have died inside, and one person died on the way to court as a result of being detained there.
The reality is that there’s no effective oversight within the government to punish any prison, or law enforcement agency, for the human rights abuses they are responsible for. Community advocates fed up with the abuse have been the only voice of reason in this struggle, and at least in OC, they’ve won.
Inspired, in part, by those efforts, California Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) is pushing forward a solution to this problem. If passed into law, AB 32 would prohibit all private prisons from operating across California by 2028.
So long as the bill’s language stays intact, it would prevent private facilities from renewing their contracts with state agencies in 2020, beginning with the Adelanto Detention Facility in the Inland Empire and Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. This would force them to close.
AB 32 is important for everyone in California. Regardless of what your political views are, everyone benefits from the bold idea that proposed legislation represents. This bill sends a message to the carceral system, and specifically to private companies profiting from incarceration and death, that when they decide to act above the laws they are supposedly upholding, there are those of us will fight until they are shut down–and we will win.
To be clear, all prisons are parasitic. From the lens of an immigrant, the worst type of parasites are private prisons that profit from our incarceration and then donate the windfall to xenophobic politicians who enable policies that further criminalize us. The ultimate goal of a just society should be to end mass incarceration by closing down all prisons.
In California, this begins with making private prisons obsolete for inmates and detainees alike.
People can support the fight for AB 32 by following groups like California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ), and Resilience Orange County on social media.
They can also join our efforts in Sacramento on Thursday at our “Cumbia 4 Liberation” rally. Find out more about getting there from Southern California on our social media pages!