Alleged Abuses Lead to Legislation Introduced Allowing Public Health Investigations of California Private Detention Facilities

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By Joey Lo

SACRAMENTO, CA – Los Angeles Senator María Elena Durazo Thursday unveiled Senate Bill 1132, which would allow county health officers to investigate California private detention facilities’ health and sanitary conditions, including for-profit facilities for civilly detaining immigrants

Many of these facilities “have a horrific track record in our state when it comes to health, safety, and human rights,” said Sen. Durazo, adding, “What happens in these facilities impacts not only those inside, but the surrounding communities also. It is important that there is transparency and accountability when it comes to public health and safety.”

Senate Bill 1132 would allow county health officers to investigate the health and sanitary conditions of private detention facilities, as they would for county jails and other public institutions. This would grant these officials to exercise their power when necessary, without requiring an annual inspection.

As of now, six private civil detention facilities operate in California and can hold over 7,200 individuals at any moment. These facilities must abide by the state’s law and public health requirements, but the for-profit entities operating them consistently/routinely can fall short of meeting fundamental standards for safeguarding “the individuals detained or employed” within their establishments, said the author.

Jackie Gonzalez, policy director at Immigrant Defense Advocates, a sponsor of the bill, said, “Each year thousands of people are detained in private detention facilities in our state, where the goal is to make profit, often at the cost of health, safety, and dignity.”

“It is important that public health officials are able to protect the health of everyone in California, including immigrants held in for-profit detention facilities,” said Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa, deputy director at NextGen California.

“Immigration detention not only deprives people of their liberty and breaks families apart, these facilities have a long history of unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” said Masih Fouladi, executive director at California Immigrant Policy Center.

“Immigrants held in private detention facilities have the same human rights to health and safety as any person in California, that includes public health oversight and accountability. This bill provides California with an opportunity to ensure that these protections are in place,” said Edwin Carmona-Cruz, co-executive director of the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice.

About The Author

Joey currently attends UC Davis, majoring in Communications and minoring in Professional Writing. She plans to graduate in March and work in Public Relations. This year, she hopes to hone her writing skills and build her portfolio. In her free time, Joey enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with friends.

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