Federal order brings a halt to private prison leases

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This post has been corrected. See note for details.

SACRAMENTO -- Tuesday’s federal order delaying a looming deadline for California to ease prison crowding comes with an edict that the state not sign any further contracts for private prison beds out of state.

The directive comes one day after California signed a five-year, $30-million-a-year contract with Geo Group to lease two prison facilities in Kern and San Bernardino counties, giving the state room for 1,400 prisoners.


The state had been negotiating other contracts, including with Corrections Corp. of America, which owns a prison in California City currently used to house federal immigration detainees. It also sought to secure added capacity at private prisons outside of California.

Gov. Jerry Brown had threatened to rely most heavily on contracts for those private prison beds out of the state if required to reduce crowding by Dec. 31. He had asked for a three-year extension to those caps in order to give time to reduce the state’s incarceration rate through community probation and rehabilitation programs.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg on Monday sent the federal judges his own appeal for a delay.

“The state can continue the failed policies of prison-building and cell-rental that do nothing to reduce recidivism or crime,” he wrote. “Or the state can invest in short, medium, and long-term strategies and policies to reduce recidivism, crime, and the prison population which will deliver durable and sustainable solutions to the state’s prison overcrowding and prison health care crisis.”

[An earlier version of this post failed to note the order affects only out-of-state prison contracts.]



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