WASHINGTON — Federal authorities reached a preliminary agreement with Corrections Corporation of America officials to improve conditions at nine facilities as part of a comprehensive reform of immigration enforcement and detention.
The deal with CCA, which covers a total of more than 7,100 beds at nine facilities across five states, will see the private prison operator ease conditions of confinement for non-criminal, low-risk detainees, officials say. Based in Nashville, Tenn., CCA manages the largest number of detention beds of any private firm contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Detention facilities should be less prisonlike because non-criminal immigrant detainees are being held on civil immigration charges, not criminal offenses, officials say. The comprehensive reform plan and overhaul of detention conditions announced by federal officials last year will be implemented at ICE facilities throughout the 30,000-bed immigration detention system.
Authorities committed to transform the orientation of the immigration enforcement and detention system to focus on fulfilling organizational objectives within a more humanized environment appropriate for non-criminal detainees, including women and children.
Currently, the system functions more like that of criminal justice with detainees housed in jails and prisonlike detention facilities throughout the United States, experts say.
Facilities will be improved to provide a less austere, corrections-type environment through the use of bright colors, plants, and new furniture and bedding, officials say.
Other reforms, which will be implemented over the next six months, could include the elimination of razor wire and similar perimeter security measures, such as armed security staff and detainee uniforms, according to reports.
Security measures will be relaxed to enhance detainees’ freedom of movement within facilities, officials say. Lockdowns and lights-out practices will be suspended as part of the reform effort. Visitations will be less restrictive and detainees will have access to unmonitored telephone and e-mail communications.
Detainees will be permitted to wear civilian clothing and to exercise more normalized contact with family members and other detainees, and will also have greater access to legal resources, according to reports.
Authorities will also ensure detainees are provided a more nutritious diet, including fresh vegetables. Detainees will be able to receive care packages from family and friends and will be allowed to engage in more recreational activities.
Discussions with state and local authorities regarding the overhaul of conditions and protocols at an additional approximately 300 facilities that house detainees under contract with ICE are ongoing, according to reports.
Federal immigration authorities will continue to house high-risk detainees convicted of a criminal offense or offenders currently serving a sentence in prisonlike facilities, officials say.
CCA ICE Facilities
• Elizabeth Detention Facility
• Eloy Detention Center (Arizona)
• Florence Services Processing
• Houston Contract Detention Facility (Texas)
• Laredo Detention Facility (Texas)
• North Georgia Detention Facility (Georgia)
• Stewart Detention Facility
• Otay Detention Facility (California)
• T. Don Hutto Detention Center (Texas)
Source: U.S. Immigration and