On Tuesday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against McFarland and the company GEO barring them from populating a new detention center. The order comes after a lawsuit highlighted misconduct.
In April, the McFarland City Council voted to turn two empty state prisons into for-profit detention centers run by the GEO group. The council’s decision violated state laws according to Grisel Ruiz, the supervising attorney for the lawsuit.
“A law that we have in California basically says that if there is a permit of this type that’s being considered, there needs to be 180 days notice,” Ruiz said. “And there also needs to be two public hearings where community testimony is taken and heard.”
The McFarland City Council did not provide adequate notice for the meetings according to Alex Gonzalez from the community organization Faith in the Valley. Even so, Gonzalez said those who were able to attend the meetings via Zoom experienced several technical difficulties.
“Like the last vote, they capped the Zoom calls at 100 people,” he said. “Also, a lot of folks that wanted to provide public comment and were connected, a lot of those folks were dropped from the call including myself.”
According to Ruiz, the judge who granted the temporary restraining order found the lawsuit raised serious questions regarding the city council’s actions as well as safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 if people were to be transferred to the facility.