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  • mcprison mcprison Feb 28, 2000 2:26 PM Flag

    New lawsuit/old news Eliz, NJ part 1

    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
    reassigned
    internally have left the center, INS
    officials say. Mitchell, who was
    chief of security at a
    CCA criminal facility in Arizona, died in

    September.

    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
    corridors.

    The FBI reviewed charges last year

    The
    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.

    "The
    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
    Justice.

    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
    investigations."

    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
    to
    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

    contractors.

    "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."

    CCA
    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
    hours
    of instruction each year with emphasis on safety and
    security.

    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

 
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