Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) says the Justice Department is attempting a “backroom deal” to build a federal maximum-security detention center in Maryland, the Washington Post reports. “It was planned without the community [and] . . . without elected officials. It was done as a sweetheart deal in the middle of the night,” Mikulski told a meeting of elected officials and community leaders. Justice has sought bids for a private company to own and operate a 1,750-bed facility for prisoners awaiting trials, sentencing hearings, or immigration proceedings.
The detention center could be located in Washington, D.C., or one of five Maryland counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery or Prince George’s.
Jorge Martinez, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said the department plans discussions with communities near possible sites.
Patricia K. Sledge, who represented Wackenhut Corrections Corp., at the meeting, said the company identified one site because the land is available, zoned commercial-industrial and easily accessible from the Capital Beltway. “We try to put these detention centers where they are needed,” she said. “And it’s needed in the D.C. area.”
Mikulski said she and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) will do what they can to stall, if not kill, the proposal. The 2004 budget bill awaiting final passage by Congress includes a provision barring Justice from pursuing bids for the project.