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Opinion: ICE Announces New Facility in North Jersey while Elizabeth Detention Center May Close [Corrected]

July 28, 2011

Written by Kathy O’Leary. ** Correction on July 29, 2011 **

After over a decade of vigils and protests of pastoral visits, general visitation and advocacy, this past Tuesday, [some local advocates have heard] ICE announced that the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC) would be closed and all the detainees moved to the Essex County Correctional Facility and its neighboring facility Delaney Hall.

The Elizabeth Detention Center, a converted warehouse located in the middle of an industrial area a stone’s throw from the runways of Newark airport, has been under almost constant fire from local advocates including AFSC Immigrant Rights Program, the Lutheran NJ Synod Immigration Task Force, IRATE & First Friends and several others for inhumane and substandard conditions.

The announcement [possible development] came after weeks of rumors and speculation during a tour given by ICE of the newly re-purposed Delaney Hall, which was has housed criminal inmates for Essex County since 2000, but will soon detain as many as 450 people on ICE detainers  (the Essex County Correctional Facility currently holds about 500).

No reason was given for the [possible] closing of the EDC, however, the reputations of both the EDC and CCA itself have been well tarred over the past years.  It was the death of a Guinean tailor, Boubacar Bah, while in CCA’s custody at Elizabeth that spurred a series of articles by the New York Times and raised the issue of substandard medical care and neglect in immigration detention to the national level.

CCA was also embroiled in controversy over another facility it operated, the T. Don Hutto facility, which housed entire families, including infants and young children in a jail-house setting and was the subject of a documentary film called The Least of These.  Though it stopped housing families in 2009, the controversy surrounding CCA’s management of T. Don Hutto continued as a guard was accused of sexually abusing female detainees in 2010.

Most recently in March of this year CCA became the target of a “National Prison Divestment Campaign”.

Community Education Centers (CEC), the for-profit operator of Delaney Hall, has no such national notoriety yet even though a look at press clippings about CEC shows quite a number of local scandals and even deaths of inmates while under its care.  However, this new contract has already begun to draw fire as questions about the lack of fairness in the public bidding process were raised in yet another article by the NY Times.

Local advocates, though not foreseeing that the EDC would close altogether, have been shifting focus toward Essex County since late last year.  They will do their best to make sure that CEC remains in the news.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. jfv permalink
    August 12, 2011 8:32 am

    Has anyone heard any news about the above article

  2. Anonjohn permalink
    August 1, 2011 11:43 am

    CCA does treat the detainees with respect, and they also get everything they need. CCA really cares about the well-being of the detainees, and they go out of their way to acomidate their every need . CCA has had a long relationship with ice and follows all detention standards required to operate the facility in a safe and secure fashion. If the Elizabeth detention center closes it will be a major mistake, for Ice would clearly loose a reliable asset, CEC does not compare to CCA, and I anticipate there will be a lot of problems with them taking over. My opinion is to keep CCA open.

  3. Kjohn permalink
    July 31, 2011 9:19 am

    I think that removing detainees from EDC to a facility run by the county(even with CEC staff)is a mistake.You all can talk all you want but CCA treats these detainees with a lot of respect.Having said this I do agree with a lot of people that knows that the bldg (625 evans street)itself is the problem.

  4. johnny boy permalink
    July 30, 2011 1:18 pm

    ICE.. Doesnt have to announce that its closing cause as of Sept 30. all level 1 detainees will be remove. EDC is waiting upon ICE word on level 2 detainees. Thats the only way the EDC can remain open.

  5. July 28, 2011 10:35 pm

    From Guatemala to Guatepeor?

  6. Elissa permalink
    July 28, 2011 9:00 pm

    ICE didn’t actually state that it was closing the Elizabeth Detention Center. We are all still waiting for the final announcement.

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