Immigration Activists Urge Push to End For-Profit Prisons in CA Amid Outbreaks

Matt Bigler
July 19, 2020 - 5:24 pm

    The rapid spread of the coronavirus in California prisons has added urgency to calls to end for-profit prisons in the state in the form of a new bill being considered in Sacramento.

    Assembly Bill 32 would ban for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers in the state. 

    Umberto Hernandez was detained at one such center in 2019. He described himself as a queer person of color and told KCBS Radio that he was made to feel helpless and vulnerable.

    “They constantly scream at you, they use homophobic slurs, the cells are small,” he said.

    There are four detainees in each room, which he said makes it almost impossible to avoid infections.

    “Now, with COVID-19, they’re spraying these chemicals and exposing everyone to the fumes hourly,” Hernandez added.

    Immigration activists are backing AB 32, but Sandy Valenciano, crimmigration strategist with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, has also called for the immediate release of detainees who cannot be protected from COVID-19.

    “These cages are not meant to keep our people safe,” she said. 

    Last week, a proposal to convert two prison facilities in the Central Valley to private-run immigration detention centers was put on hold by a federal judge.