George Franco Prisoners' Rights

Private SoCal Prison Remains Open Despite Ban

Despite President Biden's ban on private prisons, a for-profit private prison in San Diego, California, is attempting to remain open.
Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

By George Franco / San Quentin News

A for-profit GEO Group private prison is attempting to keep its federal lockup operating despite President Joe Biden’s executive order to shut down. 

The Western Region Detention Facility (WRDF), a 770-bed federal detention center in San Diego run by the GEO Group, received a six-month extension to a two-year contract that had expired on Sept. 30, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. 

In an announcement, GEO contended that it is best positioned to continue as WRDF’s operator. GEO also noted that completely closing the detention center would cause pre-trial detainees to be incarcerated far from court attorneys and family in San Diego. 

Last October, a federal judge upheld a California law that bans private prisons for civil immigration detention but allowed these facilities to house federal marshals’ detainees. This ruling is now under appeal. 

Biden’s order forbids the Justice Department from engaging in business with for-profit, private prisons in order to reduce incarceration and increase rehabilitations, according to the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General. Private detention facilities were criticized for inadequate safety and security. 

Two other detention centers are in San Diego: Otay Mesa Detention Center, operated by CoreCivic and subject to the Executive Order, and the Metropolitan Correctional Facility, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

All three facilities have been criticized for failing to properly handle the COVID-19 pandemic by not implementing protocols that would protect inmates, the newspaper reported. To address overcrowding in the pandemic, the federal court worked with prosecutors and defense attorneys to reduce pre-trial, post-conviction incarceration to low levels in certain non-violent crimes, the story said. 

Detention centers like these mostly handle pre-trial defendants with federal crimes, the Union-Tribune said. 

The city of McFarland — in Kern County with 16,000 residents, and 250 miles from San Diego — is expected to become the San Diego facility’s intermediary. 

In August, McFarland’s city attorney suggested that the city pursue negotiations to enter into business with the Marshals Service, eventually subcontracting the service to the GEO group, according to the City Council agenda. 

McFarland would get a $500.000 administrative fee for its participation, which “could generate new revenue for the city,” according to the city manager. It was not established who would pay the fee, since the city manager, who also acts as police chief, did not respond to a request for comment. 

California’s three affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter urging the Biden administration “to defeat these blatant efforts to strip the Executive Order of any meaningful impact.” 

“Rather than permit GEO to use the next six months to cement the fate of the Executive Order as a dead letter, the Administration should use this opportunity to wind down GEO’s involvement at WRDF entirely,” the letter states. 

GEO has turned to what it calls “various alternative contracting structures” in order to circumvent the president’s executive order, but the ACLU considers the McFarland deal as a violation of that order. 

“A similar deal has already kept Marshals Service detainees in place at one private facility, the ACLU notes,” said the Union-Tribune. In March, the Marshals Service had a 90-day extension deal for its contract with private prison company CoreCivic. This contract extension allowed the continued housing of federal detainees at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, which also houses state and county prisoners, according to the article. 

ACLU senior staff attorney Bardis Vakili notes that for a city as far away as McFarland, with no ties to San Diego, handing over operations presents the issue of accountability.

San Quentin News is written by incarcerated people advancing social justice.


  1. Power to the Profiteers. Now, come on, until you see we need to get them out of power and office, by any means necessary, then these stories just continue to clog up the Scheer Post posts.

    Every year, the major business magazines put out their annual surveys of big business in America.

    You have the Fortune 500, the Forbes 400, the Forbes Platinum 100, the International 800 — among others.

    These lists rank big corporations by sales, assets, profits and market share. The point of these surveys is simple — to identify and glorify the biggest and most profitable corporations.

    The point of the list contained in this report, The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade — is to focus public attention on a wave of corporate criminality that has swamped prosecutors offices around the country.

    This is the dark underside of the marketplace that is given little sustained attention and analysis by politicians and news outlets.

    To compile The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s, we used the most narrow and conservative of definitions — corporations that have pled guilty or no contest to crimes and have been criminally fined.

    The 100 corporate criminals fell into 14 categories of crime:
    Environmental (38),
    antitrust (20),
    fraud (13),
    campaign finance (7),
    food and drug (6),
    financial crimes (4),
    false statements (3),
    illegal exports (3),
    illegal boycott (1),
    worker death (1),
    bribery (1),
    obstruction of justice (1)
    public corruption (1),
    and tax evasion (1).

    We did not try to assess and compare the damage committed by these corporate criminals or by other corporate wrongdoers.

    There are millions of Americans who care about morality in the marketplace.


    Each year, Global Exchange releases a “Top Corporate Criminals” list to highlight some of the world’s corporate worst-of-the-worst on issues like violations of human rights and workers’ rights, environmental destruction, war profiteering, and tax evasion and other white-collar corporate crime, just to name a few. More importantly, we create this list to bring your attention to these gross violations and call on you to act.

    Additional criteria for including a corporation on this year’s list include: actions that particularly affect citizens of the Global South; global impact of the corporation’s malfeasance; major corporations whose crimes have gone under the radar and need to be highlighted; and corporations whose actions are being met by community opposition.

  2. Privatization is yet another of the many cancers in this society. Privatization of things like prisons is especially immoral. In fact, prison itself is immoral, though it’s a reaction to gross overpopulation (societies that are not overpopulated don’t have prisons).

  3. I didn’t know about Biden ridding us of private prisons. He did something right, though it may never come to pass, and the guilty illegal prison is given parole. Shut down the slavery. Most private prisons have forced labor, and the pay is literally pennies an hour. MOdern day slavery. I am surprised that a politician, especially one who picked Harris as a vice, is against prisons. Good for him, and for us. Just get it done.

  4. US govt is immoral and corrupt: there is no reason to believe that govt services are not more expensive and more incompetent than many non-government services. fundamentals are not addressed. why does the USA enjoy the most violent, non violent crime, rape per capita of all nations, despite that most are not reported? why do medieval laws exist in USA not found in other nations? why do fake progressives despise freedom and justice? —these concepts are never examined, nor are concepts like equality, diversity, equity, merit. Anyone that has read George simmel, alexander kojeve, Isiah Berlin, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, Jurgen Habermas, Emile Durkheim or Kant, Marx recognizes that natural rights do not exist. As Gorer observed US laws are changed on the whim of any corporation and americans reject standards in schools, police, and nearly all facets of life. “we immediately do the illegal: the unconstitutional takes a little longer”. H Kissinger

  5. Is it run by Israel?

    A Military Court Watch investigation indicates that the number of Palestinian minors currently held by Israel in solitary confinement has surged to approximately 100 to 200 children each year. The impact on the youths has included attempted suicide and head banging against metal cell doors while begging to be released…

    An investigation by Military Court Watch indicates that the number of Palestinian child prisoners currently held by Israel in solitary confinement has surged to between 100 to 200 children each year.

    A new report reviews 45 testimonies from children held in solitary confinement between January 2019 and May 2021. These testimonies trace the journey of the child from their homes in the West Bank to interrogation centres located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and inside Israel. The testimonies document children being held in tiny cells, sometimes described as filthy or cockroach ridden, with little or no bedding and inedible food. More disturbingly, in most cells there are no windows and an electric light is left on 24 hours a day.

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