Montgomery County is trying to sell off the Joe Corley Detention Facility, an immigrant detention center that's been the subject of a federal investigation and a money-drain on the county. The only company to make a bid on the facility -- billed at $55 million -- was GEO Group, the for-profit private prison currently running it. The Montgomery County Courrier reports that
The Joe Corley center, which opened in August 2008, was put up for sale in January when it was discovered the bonds used to finance the $44.8 million project would lose their tax-exempt status.
County officials established a minimum purchase price of $55 million to cover the jail’s outstanding debt (less than $38 million) and approximately $7 million in fines for losing that tax-exempt status.
We've been reporting on the Joe Corley facility since 2008, when Montgomery County began contracting to detain people for the United States Marshalls Service in addition to ICE and the Bureau of Prisons. Since then there have been a string of incidents, including a suicide attempt; a lawsuit when air conditioning was shut off during the summer; the financial burden of an empty prison; and allegations of financial misconduct.
Our friends at LIFT-Houston will be holding a vigil outside of the Joe Corley Detention Facility on Saturday to protest the immigrant detention system and show solidarity with those trapped within it. From their Facebook event page:
Join LIFT-Houston and community allies in a vigil to show support for the families of Jayron Lopez and Pablo Ortiz-Matamoros. Pablo, detained at the facility for nearly 3 months, died of lymphoma in early February 2013. Jayron is currently detained and we demand his immediate release.
We are calling on ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion and release Mr. Lopez to be back with his family and community. In addition, we ask that all low-priority detainees be released immediately.
This week, a sign-on letter was publicly delivered to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The letter, signed by 37 national and Texas-based organizations, calls for the immediate closure of the Polk County Detention Center. This facility, run by for-profit private prison company Community Education Centers, was highlighted on a list of ten of amongst the worst in the nation by Detention Watch Network due to the inhuman conditions revealed in a November 2012 report by Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families. The letter states that"
"ICE should prioritize release of immigrants into alternatives to detention and community support programs that are far more humane, less costly, and are effective at ensuring immigrants are able to appear at their hearings. As a first step toward ending inhumane detention, we call for the closure of the IAH Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center."
The diverse list of signatories includes Catholic Charities of Central Texas; Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association; the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church in Society; Detention Watch Network; the Texas Civil Rights Project; and both supporting organizations of this site. A press release about the letter is available here.
Texas Prison Bid'ness has been covering the campaign to close the detention center in Polk for months now, including a protest in December that drew over 100 community members from Houston and Austin. We'll keep you updated as this story develops.
Montgomery County has put its troubled Joe Corley Detention Center - currently operated by GEO Group and detaining immigrants under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement - up for sale, according to a report from Montgomery County Courier ("Multiple firms show interest in Corley facility," March 23rd)
"When Montgomery County commissioners voted to put the Joe Corley Detention Center up for sale in January, County Judge Alan B. Sadler expressed confidence the jail would attract several suitors in spite of its $55 million asking price.
Since then, eight corrections companies have shown a preliminary interest in the 1,288-bed facility, and three firms on the county’s “plan holders” list have inspected the jail within the past two weeks."
Officials at the facility have received interest from eight companies including private prison corporations GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Community Education Centers. The facility has a troubled history and is currently under federal investigation over allegations of financial misconduct, according to the article.
"Financed with $44.8 million in tax-exempt bonds, the jail was built on projections of growth in the inmate population in Montgomery County. Those assumptions haven’t panned out, however, so commissioners have advertised a minimum bid of $55 million to cover the jail’s outstanding debt (slightly less than $38 million) and to pay any fines from losing the tax-exempt status of those bonds.
The county also would profit approximately $10 million from the sale, county officials have stated. The Joe Corley center, located at 500 Hilbig in Conroe, houses federal prisoners from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The county received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service when it promised local inmates would account for 30 percent of the Corley’s population by August of this year.
That isn’t expected to happen. .... GEO Care is a subsidiary that operates the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Center. Both facilities have been the focus of an investigation for alleged financial misconduct."
We'll keep you posted on developments from Montgomery County.
Houston Processing Center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, was the site this weekend of a protest by undocumented youth known as DREAMers. The protesters railed against immigrant detention policies and the inhumane conditions within the facility. Along with the Polk County Detention Center, HPC was cited as one the nation's ten worst detention centers in Detention Watch Network's Expose and Close campaign. Univision covered the protest:
While the DREAMers protested outisde the facility, the New York Times covered a troubling aspect of so-called civil detention policy - prolonged administrative segretagion (better known as solitary confinement). Immigrants in detention - including those at the Houston Processing Center - can be placed in isolation for a number of reasons, from disciplinary infractions to concerns for their safety (including mental health concerns and sexuality). ICE reports that 300 immigrants are being held in segregation on any given day, and according to the article,
Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.
Juan Mendez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, identified the solitary confinement of immigrants as a "breach of [the United States's] obligations under the torture convention."