Kadner: Riot at CCA prison may kill Crete plan
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 May 22, 2012 9:12PM
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:41AM
A Mississippi congressman is calling for an investigation of an inmate riot this week at a prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America.
CCA, the largest owner of privately operated prisons in the United States, has proposed building a 750-bed immigration detention center in Crete.
According to an Associated Press story, state and county law enforcement agencies were called in to assist in quelling the riot, involving about 300 inmates, at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Miss. Special response teams from CCA were also called in, according to reports.
Opponents of the Crete detention center have repeatedly raised concerns about the cost to local taxpayers if a riot erupted.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told the Clarion Ledger newspaper that “there are some issues with the privately run facilities, so I think between the (U.S.) Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Homeland Security, you will see some restricting of that process.”
Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Bureau of Prisons, told a local TV station he will ask the inspector general for the bureau to launch an investigation into how CCA runs its prisons.
A bill pending before the Illinois House, which has passed the Senate, would place a moratorium on privately owned or operated detention facilities in the state.
The facility proposed for Crete would be a private-public partnership between the village and CCA, pending final approval of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which put out bids for the project.
According to ICE, the low-security center would house people accused of entering the country illegally and awaiting deportation, some of whom might have criminal records.
The low-security prison in Adams County holds nearly 2,500 inmates, with most serving time for returning to the U.S. after being deported.
The riot allegedly began with a gang fight in the prison yard, according to law enforcement officials, and quickly spread to involve more than 300 inmates using homemade knives, broomsticks and other weapons.
More than two dozen guards were held hostage at one point Sunday and had to be rescued. One guard died as a result of wounds suffered during the attack, and another nine were injured.
The Adams County sheriff praised CCA employees for containing the riot and said no inmates ever made it beyond the prison walls.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), an outspoken opponent of the Crete detention center, had scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Monday night in the village. ICE officials were expected to answer questions.
Jackson canceled the meeting at the request of federal law enforcement after several websites began urging protesters of the NATO Summit in Chicago to travel to Crete to demonstrate against the planned center Monday night.
“Our intent was to hold a meeting where Crete residents could get their questions answered, and that obviously would not have happened if hundreds of outside agitators had shown up screaming and disrupting the meeting,” Rick Bryant, chief of staff for Jackson, said, adding that ICE officials had canceled their appearance at the urging of Homeland Security.
Bryant said he’s attempting to set up another town hall meeting, but that probably wouldn’t happen until late June.
The Crete center is part of ICE’s strategy to create new, more humane detention facilities for people accused of being illegal immigrants.
Many people accused of being illegals are currently held in county jails or prisons along with accused or convicted criminals. Entering the country illegally is considered a civil, not a criminal, offense.
Republicans in Congress have denounced federal spending on what they consider country-club treatment for illegal immigrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized companies such as CCA for cutting corners at the expense of “decent and safe conditions.
“This weekend’s riot should make it clear to Mississippi and every other state that for-profit incarceration must end,” the ACLU said in a statement.
Jill Hornick, a member of Concerned Citizens of Crete, said the Mississippi riot is “exactly the type of situation we’re concerned about. The fact is these things do happen, and you have a private company whose job is to make a profit, not protect the public.”
I think the timing of the riot will drive a stake through the heart of the Crete plan.