% | $
Quotes you view appear here for quick access.

Corrections Corporation of America Message Board

  • mcprison mcprison Feb 28, 2000 2:24 PM Flag

    New lawsuit/old news Eliz, NJ part 1

    The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

    25, 2000, FRIDAY; ALL EDITIONS

    Pg. A1

    LENGTH: 2221 words


    LLORENTE, Staff Writer

    Two asylum
    seekers have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit

    alleging that they suffered beatings and other inhumane
    treatment at the immigration detention center in Elizabeth.
    The lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of
    America (CCA) accuses guards and supervisors of using
    excessive force against the asylum seekers after they
    complained about conditions. CCA is the private company that
    runs the Elizabeth Detention Center under contract
    with the U.S. government.

    The lawsuit also
    accuses Nashville-based CCA, the largest private

    prison management company in the world, of having a
    tacit "corporate
    policy" that sanctioned "abusive
    practices to control and discipline the refugees."

    It further contends that the alleged abuse by CCA
    employees at the
    Elizabeth Detention Center echoes
    longtime aggression by guards and
    senior officers at
    other CCA facilities.

    "There's a corporate
    policy encouraging a kind of use of force
    illegal under American law," said W. Gaston Fairey, a
    Carolina civil rights attorney who is
    representing the asylum seekers.

    "That policy
    results in the use of violence as a means of controlling
    dissidence. And a result was that these two individuals were
    abused, and that's putting it mildly." Citing the pending
    litigation, Warden Christopher Brogna said in a written
    statement that CCA could not specifically address the
    charges of abuse at Elizabeth.

    He said: "We
    have provided a secure environment, as well as the

    highest level of safety and humane treatment that can be

    We take great pride in our efforts and our
    professionally trained
    staff, who are always made aware of
    the importance of maintaining the
    dignity and
    respect of the unique population for which we are


    Susan Hart, a spokeswoman at CCA
    headquarters in Nashville, also
    declined to comment on the
    lawsuit. But she said,"CCA's policy is to
    use the
    least amount of force necessary to calm an individual
    or group
    that could jeopardize security or harm

    Hart said every CCA facility has a
    grievance process for detainees
    to voice complaints
    about treatment, and that all allegations are

    investigated. "We have zero tolerance for any excess or
    unnecessary use of force," she said.

    Officials at
    the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in

    Newark, the district office that oversees the Elizabeth
    Center, declined to comment.

    asylum seekers, Oluwole Aboyade of Nigeria and Salah
    Dafali of
    Gaza, first publicly complained of
    mistreatment in January 1999, when
    they allegedly were
    beaten. The accusations triggered a massive staffing
    shake-up at the detention center, and led the INS to
    Dafali and Aboyade to county prisons in

    They also sparked renewed criticism of
    the immigrant detention
    system, which human
    rights organizations and some members of Congress

    assail as inhumane and poorly managed.

    SortNewest  |  Oldest  |  Most Replied Expand all replies
    • Plaintiffs list details of abuse

      media interviews and in the lawsuit, Dafali charged
      that guards
      held him down on the floor while the
      chief of security at the time
      kicked him in the
      face. The lawsuit adds that CCA employees kept Dafali

      chained for hours to a bed in a small cell and ignored
      his repeated
      requests for water.

      Aboyade has alleged that a supervisor pushed him against
      a wall,
      resulting in injuries to his head. He
      also said there were other forms
      of mistreatment
      at the hands of CCA guards and supervisors over

      In one of the more serious
      incidents, the lawsuit charges that
      guards placed
      Aboyade in a filthy isolation cell after he complained

      about conditions. Aboyade spent"more than seven days"in
      the cell,
      which"had its walls, floor, and doorway
      smeared with human feces and
      urine,"the lawsuit said.

      "I've been doing civil rights law for 20
      years,"Fairey said,"but
      it shocked me when I found out how
      we treat non-criminal detainees who
      are asking
      for asylum in this country."

      Fairey has
      several other lawsuits against CCA pending in courts in

      Tennessee and South Carolina. Some of the charges allege
      that CCA
      employees hogtied juveniles at a South
      Carolina correctional facility
      and subjected them to
      physical abuse. The Tennessee suit contends that
      employees beat inmates at a prison in that state and
      tortured one by using electrical devices on his genitals.

      "This kind of conduct, violence and the
      threat of violence," Fairey
      said,"seems to be CCA's
      manner of doing business."

      Hart said CCA plans
      to "vigorously contest those claims" in South

      Carolina. "We don't believe they have any merit. "She said
      some CCA
      employees were terminated for
      "inappropriate use of force" in the
      Tennessee prison. Hart
      said she could not discuss such cases in detail

      because litigation is pending.

      The lawsuit
      concerning the Elizabeth Detention Center does not name

      the INS as a defendant and was filed in U.S. District
      Court in
      Knoxville, Tenn.

      center in the spotlight

      Most detainees at the
      300-bed Elizabeth center arrived at airports
      in the
      region without valid documents and requested political
      Federal laws mandate the detention of such
      individuals until they are
      given political asylum,
      deported, or released to family or friends while awaiting a
      decision on their asylum requests.

      The center
      has been 1 NEW3 under a national spotlight since
      1995, when more than 100 detainees rioted to protest
      inhumane conditions. The INS released a report confirming
      the charges of mistreatment, censured the private
      contractor, Esmor Correctional Services, and shut the center.

      The INS reopened it in 1997 under CCA, and
      pledged to turn it into a
      national model.

      Immigration advocates acknowledge that the center is nothing
      to the dysfunctional place it was in 1995.
      But problems have persisted,
      including several
      widely publicized hunger strikes, an Albanian

      detainee's apparent suicide, and a string of senior-level

      Last year, CCA vehemently
      denied the charges by Aboyade and Dafali,
      that their own reviews showed no wrongdoing. In
      interviews with
      The Record last year, CCA officials said
      that in the Jan. 28 incidents,
      both men were
      agitated and that guards used appropriate force. They also
      dismissed Aboyade's other charges of mistreatment.

      • 1 Reply to mcprison
      • But the INS considered the charges worrisome
        enough to take
        dramatic steps. At the agency's
        insistence, CCA transferred the chief of security, Darwin C.
        Mitchell, to a non-INS facility in Arizona and barred two
        supervisors and six officers from going near detainees. The
        warden at the time, Karen Nicholson, left after 11
        months on the job, citing personal reasons.

        All but two of the eight CCA employees who were
        internally have left the center, INS
        officials say. Mitchell, who was
        chief of security at a
        CCA criminal facility in Arizona, died in


        The INS has stepped up its presence at
        the detention center, more
        than doubling the
        number of its on-site supervisors from seven last year
        to 15 this year. The agency also plans to install
        more video monitors, which will allow INS supervisors
        a broader view of detainee dormitories and

        The FBI reviewed charges last year

        lawsuit comes as the U.S. Department of Justice is

        investigating possible criminal civil rights violations at the
        center in relation to the charges by Aboyade and Dafali.

        Christine Di Bartolo, a spokeswoman for the
        Department of Justice
        in Washington, D.C., declined to
        discuss details of the investigation.

        matter is open and under review," she said.

        FBI officials in Newark reviewed the charges last
        year, but then
        said they were not pursuing an
        investigation. Later, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark
        handled the case, INS officials said. The U.S. Attorney's
        Office declined to comment. It is unclear whether other

        agencies have been involved in the case, or why one passed
        the matter to another. All these agencies, including
        the INS, fall under the U.S.
        Department of

        Lynn Durko, spokeswoman for the Newark
        office of the INS, said:
        "Those investigations are
        separate from us. We don't know how they
        conduct their

        The lawsuit and other problems
        apparently have not hurt the
        partnership between the INS
        and CCA. The INS recently renewed its

        multimillion-dollar Elizabeth contract with CCA, and also signed CCA
        house 800 detainees in San Diego. The INS
        consistently has characterized the problems at the Elizabeth
        center as isolated ones, not reflective of systemic
        flaws. The agency notes that the center has American
        Correctional Association accreditation.

        Rep. Robert
        Menendez, a Democrat whose district includes Elizabeth,

        said he hopes the justice system clarifies whether
        mistreatment occurred at the center. But ultimately, he said,
        the INS bears the greatest responsibility.

        "It's through the INS's power that people are
        detained,"Menendez said."They have a clear responsibility for how
        the detention center is run and what a contractor
        does under its supervision."

        Fairey said his
        clients are seeking an unspecified amount of money.

        But more important, Fairey said, the men hope to
        heighten awareness of
        the pitfalls of putting
        immigrant detainees in the hands of private


        "It appears that more and more private
        correctional systems use
        excessive force as control
        techniques," said Fairey." The private prison business is a
        competitive market where companies cut costs by cutting
        corners on salaries and training."

        officials defended their training and salaries.

        Brogna, the warden at Elizabeth, said that prospective
        CCA guards
        undergo an intense background
        investigation. Successful candidates
        receive 160 hours of
        training, he said, and complete an additional 40
        of instruction each year with emphasis on safety and

        Fairey said, "If the court determines
        that CCA does have the policy
        and I'm not talking
        about a written policy, that we're alleging, we

        hope the INS and other government agencies will take a
        good, hard look
        at the conduct of privat

33.66+0.16(+0.48%)May 27 4:02 PMEDT