Opinion

California Democrats Ban Private Prisons Out of Ignorance

Written by Nicholas Vetrisek

California has now begun the process of eliminating private prisons and detention centers. The bill, recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, prevents the state from entering into or renewing any contracts with private prisons. It also forces the state to remove all prisoners and detainees from private prisons and detention centers by 2028.

Newsom said that he wanted to abolish private facilities “because they contribute to over-incarceration, including those that incarcerate California inmates and those that detain immigrants and asylum seekers.”

Regarding private prisons, supporters say they provide extra space at a lower cost while opponents say that they corporatize rehabilitation. The fact is that private prisons cannot be responsible for most of the evils attributed to them simply because they are such a drop in the bucket when compared to the rest of California’s prisons. With over 115,000 inmates in the state and only about 1,400 of them being in private prisons, there is simply no way that private facilities can be responsible for “over-incarceration.” They only have one percent of all prisoners. 

The argument that private prisons lead to over-incarceration is very common and not only fails to hold up to scrutiny in California, it’s equally ridiculous in every other part of the United States. Texas, the state with the largest percentage of prisoners in private facilities, is only at 7.8 percent, so pretending that private prisons have anything to do with how the justice system operates is absurd.

This legislation is simply a distraction from the actual reasons behind high prisoner counts. The real cause is the fact that many of these supposedly over-incarcerated groups have many serious problems in their communities that can’t simply be blamed on “the system.”

In black communities, it’s an open secret that there is an astoundingly high single parenthood rate. This alone is one of the best predictors for criminal behavior, but drugs and gangs are also rampant in many communities. These are the real causes of over-representation by minorities in prisons, not three private prisons with less than 1,500 people total.

This bill is a ludicrous gesture meant to appease fringe groups that reliably misidentify and/or ignore the issues plaguing our communities. Whether or not you agree with ending private prisons, you have to understand one thing: it will change nothing.