ICE to stop housing immigrant detainees at private Ohio prison

A statement from the federal authority said the prison was 'never meant to be a permanent detention location'


Eric Heisig
Advance Ohio Meeting

CLEVELAND, Ohio — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will stop using a private prison in Youngstown to house immigrants awaiting either deportation or a court decision that could allow them to stay in the country.

ICE officials said in an emailed statement Friday night that its contract with CoreCivic, the Nashville-based owner of the 2,016-bed Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, ends Feb. 29 and that the prison “was never meant to be a permanent ICE detention location.”

The statement did not give additional details about why ICE would cease using the prison, which has housed immigrant detainees for several years.

ICE’s use of the prison has been met with opposition from advocates who not only protest the aggressive enforcement of immigration laws by President Donald Trump’s administration, but also the administration’s use of private facilities that they say have substandard and inhumane conditions.

Immigration advocates have complained about problems they’ve heard about from inside the prison walls, from denial of religious services to poor food quality. Detainees also told their attorneys last year that they felt their wing was overpopulated.

However, immigration attorneys have said the prison doesn’t have many of the problems seen at other private facilities nationwide, as well as in makeshift holding facilities such as sweltering camps and abandoned warehouses. Lawyers have also said the staff is helpful in accommodating client visits.

ICE’s statement did not explain where immigrants currently housed in Youngstown would be moved but said such decisions are made ”on the basis of complete and accurate case information … and are undertaken as needed for a variety for reasons to include (but are not limited to) available space, court appearances or in preparation to depart the U.S.

“There is nothing unusual about transfers from one location to another,” the statement continues.

A spokeswoman for CoreCivic deferred to ICE for comment.

ICE entered into a contract with CoreCivic in late 2016 for beds at the Youngstown prison. At the time, President Barack Obama’s administration was preparing for an expected influx of Haitian refugee seekers.

The initial contract was only for a few months though ICE continued to use the prison. Officials said in May that the then-current agreement allowed for up to 352 detainees to be housed in pods at the prison and that an additional 60 detainees could be housed temporarily on emergency beds.

An inspection done for the federal government by The Nakamoto Group in March 2019 said the prison’s immigration wing met all required standards, though it found prison staff should make improvements related to food service and suicide prevention programs. ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight also inspected the prison in 2018 and found problems related to security, medical care and food service, as well as in other areas.

In Ohio, ICE also has contracts to house immigrants in local jails in Geauga, Seneca, Morrow and Butler counties.

The Youngstown prison also holds defendants awaiting trial in federal court and inmates serving state prison sentences. It operated as a federal prison for about a decade, though the Federal Bureau of Prisons declined to renew its contract in late 2014.

The end of CoreCivic’s contract with ICE means the prison will have more empty beds. U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott, whose office oversees the detention of federal inmates awaiting trial, said Friday that the marshals’ administration is in negotiations with CoreCivic for more beds

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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