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Private Prison In Downtown San Diego To Stay Open Despite Order By Biden

The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown in this undated photo.
Angela Carone
The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown in this undated photo.

A privately-operated federal detention facility in downtown San Diego recently got an extension to keep the facility open longer. The Western Region Detention Facility operated by the GEO Group was one of a class of private prisons targeted for extinction in an executive order by President Biden. But the facility recently announced it has been given a six-month contract extension by the Federal Marshals Service, and after that, the facility may find a new home in the small town of McFarland in Kern County.

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Kristina Davis spoke with KPBS Midday Edition about the recent report she did on the prison's extension.

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President Biden's executive order aimed to phase out the federal relationship with private prisons.

"The reasoning that he gives behind that is really more of like a criminal justice reform aim. He talks about using this as a way to decrease incarceration levels so the criminal justice system can turn its focus more onto rehabilitation efforts," Davis said. "What the executive order does, is it says that the Department of Justice cannot renew any contracts with these private prisons. The contract for Western Region, was supposed to be up next week, so it should be closing next week. But there was an announcement this week that it has received a six-month extension."

Davis said the GEO Group announced the extension, but did not say the reasoning behind it.

The detention facility is located where the old county jail used to be located in downtown San Diego and has a capacity of 770 beds. It houses those charged with federal crimes, who have not yet been convicted, Davis said.