(TMU) — A landmark bill passed by California lawmakers could ban the use of private prisons in the state, including putting an end to immigrant detention centers operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that have long been plagued by lawsuits and accusations of “deplorable” conditions and rights abuses.
Assembly Bill 32 was passed by the California Sate Assembly Wednesday in a 65-11 vote, just one day after the state Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure.
The legislation is being hailed as a huge step toward criminal justice reform in a state that is teeming with prisons and has relied on private prisons to reduce overcrowding in state facilities.
Under the bill, which was authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) would be prevented from entering into or renewing contracts with private prisons as soon as 2020. The legislation would also prevent the state from housing inmates in for-profit prisons beginning in 2028. California would also be prevented from sending prisoners to out-of-state for-profit facilities.
An exception recently added to the bill, however, would allow the CDCR to renew or extend contracts for housing state prison inmates “in order to comply with any court-ordered population cap.” Bonta added the exception to increase the chances that Governor Gavin Newsom would sign the bill, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The governor has voiced opposition to the use of private prisons in the past.
On Wednesday, Bonta tweeted:
“We are on the verge of creating historic and needed reform to end the use of for-profit, private prisons and for-profit, private civil detention centers in CA. People are not commodities!”
#AB32 has passed the Assembly and is now en route to Gov. @GavinNewsom’s desk! We are on the verge of creating historic and needed reform to end the use of for-profit, private prisons and for-profit, private civil detention centers in CA. People are not commodities! #CALeg pic.twitter.com/FFFBrtGSex
— Rob Bonta (@RobBontaCA) September 11, 2019
One company, GEO Group, operates four of the private prisons in California under a contract with the CDCR that expires in 2023 and cannot be renewed under AB32 unless it is needed to comply with the federal court meant to reduce crowding in California prisons.
While Bonta originally wrote the bill to apply to contracts between the prison authority and private prison companies, he amended the bill in June to apply to ICE’s four major detention centers in the state, where conditions have been described as “reprehensible” by the California Department of Justice.
Two of the largest immigrant jails in California—the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield and the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino—are operated by GEO Group through elaborate subcontracting arrangements using city governments as middlemen.
Lizbeth Abeln of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice told the Guardian:
“What ICE does is they locate in these very poor and remote areas.
The private prison comes in and lobbies and promises jobs, and tax money.”
VICE reports that according to data released by advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, Mesa Verde costs taxpayers $119.95 per detainee, per day, for the first 320 people detained there, and Adelanto costs $111.92 per detainee per day for the first 1,455 people detained there. Once GEO Group hits a certain threshold of detainees at each facility, it makes less money.
No one should ever profit off the misery that is our mass incarceration system. https://t.co/AKeXwkh18O
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 13, 2019
The Adelanto facility run by GEO Group has been described as “the deadliest immigration center in the country” and has been the focus of various congressional, state, and federal inquiries along with major lawsuits. The most recent season of the popular HBO drama Orange Is The New Black was based in a facility modeled on Adelanto.
In July, Bonta said:
“We’ve all seen the current humanitarian crisis play out along the southern border. No human being deserves to be held in the horrific conditions we’ve been seeing in these for-profit, private facilities. It’s clearly not enough to focus our legislation on prisons alone.
We must address the complete scope of what’s going on in these Wall Street-run corporate detention facilities. California should not be home to companies that are profiteering from the tearing of innocent children from their families. This is inhumane and goes against who we are as Californians and Americans.”
ICE has declined to comment on the passage of the bill but ominously warned that state lawmakers are unable to bind “the hands of a federal law enforcement agency,” reports NBC News.
Bryan D. Cox, acting press secretary for ICE, told NBC:
“We don’t comment on pending legislation.
But any person under the impression that a state law in any way binds the hands of a federal law enforcement agency which manages a national network of detention facilities would be a false impression.”
The bill now heads to Newsom’s desk for his consideration, where he will have a month to either sign it into law or veto it.
Adelanto, the ICE facility that inspired the most recent season of Orange Is The New Black, has a documented history of abuse.
— Freedom for Immigrants (@MigrantFreedom) September 12, 2019
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”
Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family
Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.
“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.
Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.
Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.
“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.
“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”
The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.
The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.