Salon Media reports today that New Jersey governor Chris Christie promotes Community Education Centers (CEC), a for-profit prison company. The facility is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrant men who are seeking asylum in the United States ("Chris Christie's Texas Horror: Meet the Scandalous Prison Company he's Long Promoted," 1/24/14).
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, visited Polk in 2012 and 2013 with other activists. Libal claims that "I've visited a bunch of detention facilities in Texas, and that's by far the worst." Libal's sentiments are reflected in a report released by the Detention Watch Network, a coalition comprised of the ACLU, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Grassroots Leadership, and others. The report alleges that those incarcerated at Polk receive inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, are neglected, and do not have access to legal services. An ICE spokesperson claims that these allegations, as well as similar ones reported during Grassroots Leadership's and Texans United for Families' visit to Polk in 2013, are based on "unsubstantiated allegations."
Christie support of CEC harkens back to 2000 and 2001, when Christie was a registered lobbyist for the company. The state of New Jersey has also contributed financially to CEC. Former CEC employees told the New York Times "that the company had kept staffing levels very low" and "did a poor job delivering counseling and other services intended to help inmates make the transition to society." Christie vetoed improvements in New Jersey halfway houses operated by CEC, and is a close friend of Bill Patalucci, a CEC executive. Patalucci later served as chairman of Christie's 2013 re-election committee and he and Christie's brother co-chaired Christie's inaugural committee.
Libal points out that CEC continues to use Christie's support for the company as a public relations tool. Governor Christie spoke at the ten-year anniversary of the Dleaney Hall New Jersey Halfway House two years prior to the facility became the subject of a New York Times investigation. Christie had this to say about the facility:
"Places like this are to be celebrated. A spotlight should be put on them as representing the very best of the human spirit. Because when you walk through here as I've done many times, what you see with your very eyes are miracles happening."