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
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
"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