Bonta Introduces Bills Ending State’s Involvement in For-Profit, Private Prison Industry

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Bills Would End Incarceration of State Inmates in For-Profit, Private Prisons and Require CalSTRS and CalPERS to Divest Holdings

(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced two important pieces of legislation today shortly after the legislature adjourned session. The first bill, AB 32, would prohibit California’s use of for-profit, private prisons and the second bill, AB 33, would require California’s public retirement funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) to divest their holdings in for-profit, private prisons.

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration introduced cruel immigration policies separating innocent children from their families. Thousands of adults and children have been detained in two for-profit, private prison facilities operating outside of San Antonio, Texas. Last month, the California State Teachers’ Retirement Board voted to withdraw the $12.1 million invested in the two largest for-profit, private prison companies—CoreCivic and Geo Group.

“These companies are not only facilitating the Trump Administration’s political agenda, but profiting from the cruel, zero tolerance immigration policies that have torn innocent children from their families. This is inhumane and not in line with California’s values,” Bonta said. “In California, we put our money where our values are and I applaud CalSTRS for its recent decision to divest from for-profit, private prisons.”

CalSTRS joins other large U.S. public pension funds in divesting from for-profit, private prison companies, including funds in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. AB 33 will statutorily require both CalSTRS and CalPERS to fully strip holdings in for-profit, private prisons.  AB 33 is co-authored by Assemblymembers Chiu, Gipson, Gonzalez, Levine, McCarty, Stone, and Senator Wiener.

Bonta also re-introduced legislation (AB 32) which would end California’s use of for-profit, private prisons to incarcerate inmates. Bonta introduced legislation (AB 1320) in 2017 to prohibit the renewal of state government contracts with for-profit, private prisons and completely phase out their use by 2028. AB 1320 passed both houses of the Legislature but was vetoed by Governor Brown. AB 32 is joint authored by Assemblymembers Chiu, Gloria and Gonzalez and is co-authored by Assemblymembers Gipson, Levine, McCarty, Stone, Quirk and Senator Wiener.

"With one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, California needs to invest in rehabilitation, not corporate profits," said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco).  "Private, for-profit prisons have a duty to their corporate shareholders to return large profits at every turn, which makes it nearly impossible to spend the resources necessary to genuinely rehabilitate someone.  I applaud Assemblymember Bonta for working to phase out this harmful industry in California."

“There is no place in our country for corporations that profit from incarcerating folks, tearing apart families or putting children in cages,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “I’m proud to join Assemblymember Bonta as a joint author of this important legislation and to also co-author a bill that would make California’s public investments reflect our values.”

“The built-in incentives for these businesses are all wrong,” said Bonta. “A private, for-profit company that’s traded on Wall Street will inherently be incentivized to maximize profits and minimize costs—including the important “costs” of investments in programs, services and rehabilitation efforts for inmates-- through warehousing our inmates. They have a duty to shareholders, not to California,” Bonta said. “It’s time we redirect our criminal justice system to value and prioritize effective prison rehabilitation programs, which will help minimize recidivism rates and maximize successes for inmates upon their reentry into society,” Bonta concluded.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader.