GEO Group, a Florida-based security firm that operates a number of private prions and detainment centers across the US, sued California on Monday after the state passed a law aimed at ending the use of private prisons.
The California legislature overwhelmingly passed Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) in early October, barring the state from entering into new contracts or modifying existing contracts with for-profit prison companies starting in 2020. In addition, the bill prohibits the operation of any for-profit detention centers in the state after 2028.
GEO Group alleged in their complaint that AB 32’s total prohibition on private detention facilities violates the supremacy clause of the US Constitution by barring the federal government from contracting with private security companies to run facilities inside California. GEO Group currently manages seven facilities for the federal government in California, including immigrant detention centers for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In the complaint, GEO Group called AB 32 an effort by California to “subvert” the power of the federal government and “undermine the United States government in the exercise of sovereign powers undoubtedly within the supreme sphere of federal action.” GEO Group said that AB 32 was aimed primarily at closing facilities run by ICE, stating that it was a “transparent attempt by the state to shut down the federal government’s detention efforts within California’s borders.” It says that the supremacy clause makes it illegal for states to regulate the activities of the federal government in this way and that AB 32 is therefore unconstitutional.
California Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the primary author of AB 32, tweeted that the lawsuit was “a desperate attempt [to] buy another year of survival [to] pad its corporate profits. … People and law [are] against [you].” Neither GEO Group nor California Governor Gavin Newsom have made public statements about the lawsuit.