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Kadner: Senate passes bill to kill Crete detention center

Signs are posted homes opposing proposed detenticenter Crete Illinois Wednesday January 18 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times

Signs are posted at homes opposing the proposed detention center in Crete, Illinois, Wednesday, January, 18, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 30, 2012 8:25AM



Legislation designed to prevent a private company from building an immigrant detention center in Crete overwhelmingly passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.

Crete Mayor Michael Einhorn said “no comment” when contacted. Asked about the bill’s impact on the proposed detention center, he said: “I don’t know. I haven’t read it.”

The measure, Senate Bill 1064, amends the Illinois Private Correctional Moratorium Act and prohibits the state, counties and municipalities from contracting with for-profit companies to run civil detention centers.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), declares that the Illinois General Assembly finds that the management and operation of correctional or detention facilities “involves functions that are inherently governmental.”

It was approved by the Senate on a 34-to-17 vote, but its swift passage came as a shock to supporters who have yet to line up a sponsor in the House.

The bill states that punishment of errant citizens through incarceration “or other uses of detention” requires the exercise of “coercive police powers over individuals and is thus distinguishable from privatization in other areas of government.”

In a news release, Munoz said, “The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a builder of private prisons and detention centers, has targeted Crete, Illinois, for the building of an immigration detention center.

“This is the same private prison company that built prisons in Arizona and then lobbied to pass stricter immigration laws so they could fill the beds in the facility and get paid by the government to do so.”

As previously reported in this column, the village of Crete and the Corrections Corporation of America submitted a proposal to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to build a 775-bed detention center in Crete.

The facility was designed to meet the demands of ICE, which had solicited proposals for new detention camps throughout the country that would provide more humane treatment for those facing deportation.

ICE had been accused of placing people accused of being illegal immigrants in county jails and other correctional facilities where they often were treated like convicted criminals by the guards.

Under the law, illegal immigrants are considered in violation of the country’s civil laws, which is not a crime punishable by imprisonment.

The facility proposed by CCA in Crete would include skylights, television sets, fitness equipment, aerobics classes, a law library, basketball courts, volleyball and free medical and dental care.

The walls surrounding the prison, according to the proposal, would not appear to be traditional prison walls to outsiders.

CCA said it approached Crete with its plans for building a detention facility there.

This column identified several acres of farmland on Hartmann Drive, about a mile south of Burville Road, as the potential site for the detention center.

Hundreds of Crete residents have attended informational meetings, signed petitions against the facility and marched on the village hall to demonstrate their displeasure.

Anti-deportation activists have scheduled a three-day walk to Crete from Chicago beginning at 3:30 p.m. Friday in front of the Cook County Jail, 26th Street and California Avenue.

The march is scheduled to take demonstrators through the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Wrightwood and Evergreen Park on Friday; Blue Island, Harvey, Homewood and Chicago Heights on Saturday; and arrive in Crete about 9 a.m. Sunday.

A rally is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. at the site of the proposed detention center.

Einhorn has emphasized that the village has not signed any contracts to build the detention center but has touted the millions of dollars in new revenue the project could bring to the village.

Crete would be authorized by ICE to hire a private contractor to build the detention facility and receive a per diem from the federal government for each detainee there.

Crete’s contract with CCA eventually would spell out how much of that money the private contractor would receive.

CCA would build and operate the facility.

In an e-mail to the SouthtownStar, CCA officials stated “the project in Crete has been initiated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of the Obama administration’s vision for detention, with the goal of providing detainees with a humane and appropriate environment.”

In response to Munoz’s statement, CCA said it “does not and has never written, lobbied for or endorsed detention, crime or sentencing legislation under longstanding corporate policy.”



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