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Senate Insurance Committee Approves Bill to Protect Health, Safety, and Human Rights of Immigrants in Private, For-Profit Prisons and Detention Facilities

News: 2021 Press Release

For Release: March 26, 2021
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
Senate Insurance Committee Approves Bill to Protect Health, Safety, and Human Rights of Immigrants in Private, For-Profit Prisons and Detention Facilities
SB 334 goes next to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Senate Insurance Committee yesterday by an 8-1 vote approved Senate Bill 334, authored by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, to protect the health and safety of immigrants held in private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities.

Various independent and government investigations have detailed the horrific and abusive treatment of people detained in these private facilities, including those located in California. SB 334, the Private Detention Accountability Act, requires private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities operating in California to meet insurance requirements including workers’ compensation and liability, and mandates that they obtain coverage from an admitted carrier authorized to do business in California by the California Department of Insurance. Private, for-profit detention centers and prisons that fail to meet minimum established local, state, and federal health, safety, and human rights standards that otherwise protect the medical needs, safety requirements, and human rights of detained immigrants would lose their insurance coverage and their contract with the local city or county in which they operate.

“Private detention centers are not upholding basic health, safety, and human rights standards in large part because there are no consequences if they fall below these standards,” said Commissioner Lara. “If a for-profit prison or detention center fails to protect the basic health, safety, and human rights of people in their care, under SB 334, they will lose their insurance – we have to hold them accountable, especially with the COVID pandemic only exacerbating these dire conditions.”

“We must hold private detention centers and prisons to the same health and safety standards that we expect from public facilities in California. The pandemic has only made more clear that the conditions in private detention centers are inhumane and dangerous,” said Senator Durazo. “With the passage of SB 334 out of the Senate Insurance Committee, we are one step closer to holding these facilities accountable for the health and safety of the people detained."

The bill is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC).

“The approval of SB 334 (Durazo) from the first policy committee signifies the first step towards bringing justice to immigrants who are in detention centers. For-profit immigration detention centers must be held accountable for not providing adequate care for those who are detained. We are humbled to join Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) as co-sponsors and we look forward to the passage of the bill and a signature from the Governor,” said CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas.

“Substandard conditions that have plagued private prisons and detention centers have only been exacerbated during COVID. If we cannot close these facilities immediately, then we should ensure they are held accountable to local, state, and federal standards and can maintain proper insurance liability in order to protect those in their care,” said CIPC policy director Connie Choi. “This bill will ensure that basic health, safety, and human rights are afforded to our most vulnerable population.”

SB 334 would require for-profit detention facilities and prisons to adhere to the detention standards of care and confinement agreed upon in the facility’s contract for operations in addition to California’s minimum jail standards and all appropriate local and state building, zoning, health, safety, and fire standards.

The bill is supported by civil rights groups, immigrant rights lawyers, and public safety organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Public Counsel, Building the California Dream Coalition, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, California chapter, among others, and has no known opposition.

The measure will go next to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. If approved by both houses of the California State Legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this year, SB 334 would take effect on January 1, 2022.

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The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $340 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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