Groups organize against proposed immigration detention center in Joliet

Local groups say prison operator treats immigrant detainees poorly

December 13, 2012

Immigrant advocates met Thursday to organize against a proposed immigration detention center in Illinois.

Corrections Corporation of America, a private corrections company wants to open a 750-bed facility in Joliet.

The company, however, has a reputation for poor treatment of its detainees. Two of the company’s detention centers recently made a list of the country’s 10 worst immigrant prisons.

That’s why Jesse Hoyt of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and others are opposing plans for a Joliet prison.

“This private, for-profit company has an awful history in terms of how they actually treat their inmates. Because they are for-profit, they cut costs where they can, which means they cut costs on health care for the detainees,” Hoyt said.

Joliet City Manager Tom Thanas supports the new project because he considers it an economic engine for the community.

“I understand that there are incidents that have been reported but I think you find incidents like that at any correctional facility whether is privately own, or state owned or county owned,” Thanas said.

He said the project would bring about $60 million in new construction to the community. He also said the detention center will house about 250 permanent jobs.

Thanas said city officials have not signed off on the detention center, proposed by the federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“ICE will be looking at various sites throughout the entire Chicago area, but now decisions have been made,” he said. “They have not identified Joliet as a prime location nor have they given us any indication that Joliet will be selected as a potential site.”

In a recent statement, Gail Montenegro the ICE public affairs representative of the Chicago region said “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has identified a need for a civil immigration detention facility within the greater Chicago area ….ICE is committed to making sensible detention reforms, and we will continue to look for other locations to achieve those goals.”