It promises to be a potential moneymaker in struggling Newark: a proposed upgrading and extension of the Essex County, N.J., jail so it would hold hundreds more immigrants than it does now, the New York Times reports. For the Obama administration, the plan offers the possibility of being one of the first publicly visible results of its strategy to overhaul the way the government detains immigrants accused of violating the law.
Federal officials say the proposal, which they have tentatively approved, would provide a less penal setting for detainees, with improved medical care, amenities, and federal oversight — the template for a new kind of detention center they intend to create around the U.S. by renovating existing centers, building new ones, and closing others. As the government has locked up a growing number of immigrants, it has patched together a loose network of county jails and private detention centers, some of which have come under fire for abuse, substandard living conditions, and detainee deaths. Federal officials have signaled their intent to expand or build centers in or near Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.