When the Justice Department announced two months ago that it wanted to end the use of private prisons, Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico was exactly the kind of facility that officials wanted to shut down, the Washington Post reports. After a history of questionable deaths and substandard medical care, the facility lost its contract. In recent weeks, it was emptied of inmates. The vacancies won’t last for long. As soon as this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is not in the Justice Department, will begin moving immigrant detainees into the facility under a new set of agreements with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a county official said.
The federal immigration enforcement agency is expanding its use of for-profit prisons, even while another government agency says the facilities are less safe and effective than government-run prisons. The move illustrates the difficulties of ending the government’s reliance on private prisons and jails as immigration authorities deal with an influx of detainees. In addition to a new contract for up to 1,116 beds at Cibola County, ICE has extended a contract with CCA for a 2,400-bed facility in Texas. The agency also seems to be eyeing jail space in Youngstown, Oh., where CCA has posted advertisements for job openings, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Jennifer Elzea, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency was “committed to providing a safe and humane environment for all those in its custody.” She said the agency used various contractors and other arrangements to house inmates “to meet the agency’s detention needs while achieving the highest possible cost savings for the taxpayer.” The Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, is studying the private-prison issue, and its evaluation is due Nov. 30.